Feb. 22, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The missing piece to the puzzle that has been Florida State's 2012 football schedule is finally in place.
FSU officials announced Wednesday that a contract with Savannah State has been signed and the Tigers will serve as the replacement for West Virginia, which earlier this month backed out of its Sept. 8 game in Tallahassee.
The Tigers went 1-10 in 2011 as members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference -- the same conference as Florida A&M -- and scored more than 10 points only four times all year. Savannah State's lone victory last season was a 33-30 win at North Carolina Central.
The fact that Savannah State plays at the FCS level and -- to put it bluntly -- was not very good last year, may cause some concern among those fans that focus on the level of competition on the 'Noles' schedule.
But even though the Tigers won't increase FSU's strength of schedule, there's still some value. If Florida State wants to get back to a BCS Bowl Game, there's no requirement that an Oklahoma or West Virginia be on its schedule and an early-season contest against a lesser opponent helps with team and young-player development.
Reaching an agreement with Savannah State to fill the Sept. 8 opening and not scheduling another team at a later date in the season also means that FSU avoids an early-September off-week.
"What could have happened to us this year is our second game could have been our bye week and we'd have to play 11 straight games," FSU athletics director Randy Spetman told reporters Wednesday morning. "Can you imagine that? I can't … even though we might lose some revenue, I think we have a better shot to be champions down the line by not playing 11 in a row."
Of course, last year's game against the Sooners is a perfect example as to why those types of matchups are so much fun and why they are valuable for season-ticket sales.
The environment at Doak Campbell Stadium when Florida State and Oklahoma clashed in front of the nation and a capacity crowd was one not soon to be forgotten and had the Mountaineers not cancelled their trip to Tallahassee, it would have been much of the same this season.
But the fallout from that loss to the Sooners was felt in the weeks following. The Seminoles then had to play at Clemson without EJ Manuel, Greg Reid and several others, who were all injured against Oklahoma. Despite a bye the following weekend, the injuries were still a factor in FSU's loss at Wake Forest.
Not to say that players can't be injured against Savannah State but the risk is greatly reduced. There's a reason that Auburn and Alabama -- winners of the last three national championships -- have had Arkansas State, Chattanooga, Kent State, North Texas, Georgia Southern and FIU on their schedules during their title runs.
Both Auburn and Alabama have to run the SEC gauntlet and there's simply no reason to add more challenges by scheduling elite non-conference opponents. FSU's ACC schedule isn't as daunting but the logic is still the same; games against BCS Bowl Game participants Clemson and Virginia Tech as well as Florida and Miami can't be overlooked.
The substitution of Savannah State for West Virginia also lets FSU keep seven home games in 2012 -- a reality that would not have been had a BCS-level opponent only agreed to a home or neutral-site game and a positive for the Tallahassee community.
"According to Bonn Marketing Research, the direct economic impact of a FSU home-game can range anywhere from $1 million to $10 million depending on the opponent and time of the game," said Executive Director of Visit Tallahassee Lee Daniel. "This impact is certainly significant and important to our hotels, restaurants, retail establishments and other businesses."
Considering the limited time in which Spetman and Senior Associate Athletics Director Monk Bonasorte had to complete the Seminoles' schedule and the constraints associated with the timing, keeping a complete home slate of games while also bolstering FSU's chances at remaining healthy and undefeated heading into ACC games is a positive in what has otherwise been a negative situation caused by West Virginia.
Season-ticket prices for 2012 will remain the same 13-percent discount from seven individual tickets but the single-game cost to see the Seminoles on Sept. 8 will drop from $70 to $40.
Savannah State will be coming to town a week after playing at Oklahoma State. Seems the Cowboys -- a team that was in contention for last year's national championship -- understand non-conference scheduling in the BCS era as well.