The man who started the “Fire Mike Norvell” firestorm a year ago has a confession: He never really wanted Florida State to fire Mike Norvell.
“Fire Mike Norvell” was just the title of the viral Twitter Spaces conversation Sam Moore launched last early signing day as Norvell’s Seminoles lost the nation’s top prospect, Travis Hunter, in one of the biggest recruiting shockers of all time. Norvell got the blame, but Moore — a 35-year-old lifelong Jacksonville resident and longtime ‘Noles fan — knew FSU’s issues ran deeper.
“That’s kind of the reason I started the Space the whole time,” Moore said recently. “Really just to troll my own fan base, to be funny.”
Funny isn’t the right word for what actually happened. More like crazy. College football crazy.
FSU fans reeling from a recruiting heartbreaker after Norvell’s disappointing 5-7 second season flocked to Moore’s Space (essentially a real-time audio conversation on the social media app). Every speaker had to start with the same three words — “Fire Mike Norvell” — before ending who-knows-where.
It sounded like a cross between a message-board meltdown and a group therapy session — four hours of sports talk radio that was uninterrupted, uncensored and, at times, unhinged.
Not at all what Moore expected.
“I was just going to do it for, like, 30-40 minutes on my lunch break,” Moore said.
But when he saw that thousands of people were streaming it to commiserate, rubberneck or both, Moore clocked out of his government insurance job to focus on moderating.
Heisman winner Robert Griffin III listened. So did Rep. Matt Gaetz, an army of college football media members, at least one Miami player and, according to the sports media website Awful Announcing, 80,000 others, making it one of that month’s top 10 Spaces of any subject in the country. ESPN and The Athletic picked it up.
“It kind of took a life of its own,” Moore said. “Now I’m kind of, like, known as the guy that wanted to fire Mike Norvell, when I knew that that wasn’t possible.”
Moore knew that wasn’t possible because FSU had just canned Willie Taggart after 21 games. Firing Norvell after 21 more would set the program back even farther.
A year later, getting rid of Norvell is out of the question. His No. 13 ′Noles have their best record (9-3) since 2016 and will have a shot at a top-10 finish if they beat Oklahoma in the Dec. 29 Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando.
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FSU’s recruiting class enters Wednesday’s early signing day 17th nationally (15th including transfers) in the 247Sports composite rankings. That’s up from 20th and 19th last year. Fort Lauderdale receiver Hykeem Williams is set to be FSU’s first five-star signee since 2017.
Moore still has legitimate questions about whether Norvell can recruit at an elite level. But everything that has happened since the Twitter Space has convinced Moore that Norvell could lead FSU to a conference title — something he wouldn’t have said a year ago.
“He has done a great job turning everything around,” Moore said. “All credit due to him.”
And to the program as a whole.
Moore never solely blamed Norvell, because he thought the problems went beyond the head coach. Since then, FSU has renovated its locker room, added support staff, installed an experienced athletic director (Michael Alford), brought a new football facility to the verge of reality and had its best home attendance since 2018.
“The structure that FSU has now, I think, is going to be great for the next 10, 15, 20 years,” Moore said. “I think they’re in a much, much better place than they were five years ago.”
And certainly in a much better place than they were a year ago when they lost the nation’s top player to FSU legend Deion Sanders (then at Jackson State). That, for Moore, was rock bottom.
Moore doesn’t regret the conversation he started then, but he doesn’t sound proud of it, either. Though he hosts the Listen Up Podcast about the ’Noles, it’s an unpaid hobby, not his job. He didn’t take his platform seriously and still doesn’t think “any person that’s cutting checks should be listening to Sam on Twitter.”
But he understands now that thousands of people around the country did listen to Sam on Twitter — for four wild hours, until he cut it off to pick up his 3-year-old son from daycare. Maybe, he says now, that “Fire Mike Norvell” firestorm turned into the call to action FSU was waiting for.
“If doing that Twitter Space made boosters or donors or fans or whatever decide we really, really, really want Mike Norvell to succeed because this isn’t right … and that created the support and the windfall that he needed, then I’m glad I did it,” Moore said.
As FSU gears up for another signing day, Moore has no plans for an encore. He has, however, heard from plenty of fans who want him to launch a Twitter Space with a new name: “Keep Mike Forever.”
“I told them if we win the ACC championship,” Moore said, “I’ll put that together.”
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