TAMPA — Brian Murphy has been as frustrated as every other Florida State fan over the Seminoles’ slide.
Back-to-back losing seasons. The worst three-year stretch since 1974-76. Apparent disarray on the sidelines and throughout the program.
But the FSU alumnus and Tampa businessman isn’t much for doom and gloom prophecies. Murphy’s such a believer in the Seminoles’ future that he and his family were among the first major contributors to the Renaissance Campaign, the football-focused fundraising effort designed to bring another dynasty to Tallahassee.
Given how rough the recent past has been, the Tampa Bay Times sat down with Murphy last week at the headquarters of his security technology company, ReliaQuest, to see why he’s buying into the program’s future.
“What I speak to in anything,” Murphy said, “is measured expectations.”
Measured expectations. Not exactly a catchy ad campaign for the Seminoles or the Seminole boosters. Regardless, Murphy — a member of the boosters’ board of directors —believes it’s the way the university and fans like himself need to view the near future of FSU football.
“We have to be patient and look for things to celebrate,” Murphy said.
For most of Murphy’s life, the reasons to celebrate FSU were obvious.
He started following the ’Noles growing up in Jacksonville in the 1980s as Bobby Bowden’s dynasty was forming. He graduated from FSU in 2000, a year after the program’s second national title. Murphy remembers sitting in an accounting review course with headphones on, listening to the 2000 FSU-Miami classic.
But the FSU that new coach Mike Norvell inherited in December is not the one that caused Murphy to ditch his study session, or the one that Jimbo Fisher and Jameis Winston led to a national title seven years ago.
Murphy thinks it can get there again. Just not immediately.
“The national championship is the end goal,” Murphy said. “If that is the end goal, you have to back up into, I call them the steps, the punches and the rounds. You don’t think about winning the boxing match. You think about the steps, the punches and the rounds.”
So what, then, are the steps and punches Murphy is monitoring as FSU tries to get back into contention to win rounds and matches?
Murphy sees victories in how Norvell assembled his staff and how the ’Noles closed on the recruiting trail, with a class that ranked among the best of any first-year coach in the early signing era.
He sees victories in Florida State’s administrative realignment. The recently formed FSU Athletics Association is designed to streamline discussions and decisions among the program’s powerbrokers, and Murphy said the Renaissance Campaign shows the plan is working.
“I think the structures that are being put in place now, I do think it puts Florida State in a better position to make decisions quickly — and the right decisions quickly — with everybody’s buy-in,” Murphy said. “If you don’t have buy-in, then it’s tough to get anything done.”
And there’s a lot FSU needs to get done before it can start challenging for championships again.
The 2020 roster will be one of its least talented of the modern recruiting era. Facilities upgrades are in the works but not imminent. The problems that created this drought won’t go away overnight.
Murphy understands all of that, which is why his measured expectations include simple things like lining up correctly, keeping games close and improving over the course of the season. He wants other fans to adopt that patience, too, even if it’s hard.
“We have a heritage that we should not expect patience of because of what we’ve done in the past,” Murphy said. “But we should allow our past accomplishments to give us confidence for the future, right?
“We’re in ebbs and flows. Right now, we need to give it some time to come up and be competitive.”