Mid-October means we are in the thick of the college football season. At this point, it is starting to become clear who the frontrunners in most conferences will be come December.
However, for the first time in a long time, the state of Florida may not be a factor in these races whatsoever.
On October 9, the Associated Press released its weekly poll of the top 25 teams in the nation. After a streak of 472 consecutive polls, there was no team from the Sunshine State included in this elite group. This marks the state’s first absence in such rankings since 1982. And there are a few more schools in Florida playing in the FBS (formerly Division I-A level) than there were back then.
There is one glaring reason that could explain why this streak came to an end. The BCS programs at FSU, UF, Miami and USF all have head coaches in either their first or second year. In the meantime, the programs at UCF, FAU and FIU certainly aren’t making much of a case to pick up their big brothers’ slack.
But as St. Petersburg Times columnist John Romano points out in a piece on this subject, Florida is a hotbed of high school football players, many of whom have starred on national championship teams at the college level and on Super Bowl teams in the NFL. In fact, the state has produced 10 national titles in college football. Clearly, even to this day, the athletes are there.
The challenge then becomes attracting top players to these schools. It is much easier for an athlete to pick a school that has a well-established, successful coaching staff in place. It is less tempting to play in a program surrounded by uncertainty due to the newness of its coaches.
So, as college football enthusiasts living in Florida, where do things go from here?
The answer is hurry up and wait. Fans will have to be patient for another two, three, maybe five years before they see the Sunshine State’s teams consistently ranked among the top programs nationally. In addition, these new coaches will either prove themselves by winning conference championships or will be forced out due to a lack of progress. Because of the pressure to succeed at these tradition-rich schools, time is not on the side of these coaches.