Florida State finally found a 12th opponent for the upcoming 2012 football season, but nobody expects the game to be much of a battle.
Athletics director Randy Spetman made the announcement Wednesday that Savannah State will arrive Sept. 8 at Doak Campbell Stadium, filling the hole recently left in the schedule by West Virginia. An FCS school in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the same league thas features fellow Tallahassee inhabitant Florida A&M, the Tigers are coming off a 1-10 year that includes lopsided defeats to the likes of Southeastern Louisiana, Appalachian State and Norfolk State -- plus a 47-7 laugher Oct. 15 to the aforementioned Rattlers.
The Mountaineers made public Feb. 4 their intentions to bail on a proposed road trip to the Capital City and a matchup with FSU, which left Spetman and Co. scrambling to find a replacement. According to Spetman, while he contacted some fairly well-respected programs, from Oklahoma to Texas A&M to Arkansas, the logistics of putting together a deal in such a short period of time were too daunting to overcome. Not only did few teams have an opening Sept. 8, but, presumably, even fewer wanted to fill that date with the 'Noles, who return almost all of their starters and are once again expected to be ranked in the preseason Top 10.
Losing West Virginia and adding Savannah State certainly makes Florida State's road to national-title contention a lot less rocky, although selling individual-game tickets for what will inevitably be a blowout won't be easy.
"West Virginia's announcement at the 11th hour really put us in a very difficult position," Spetman said in a statement. "We contacted every BCS school that had an opening in hopes of replacing WVU with a BCS opponent, but none of those few schools could make it work either because of our dates or theirs. It is important for our fans to realize that the schools we contacted during the search did not pass on the 2012 game out of concern for the competition, but because of challenges they faced with schedule changes this late in the year."
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher has indicated in the past that he's not a big proponent of high-profile non-conference tilts, just like FSU-WVU would have been, as getting through eight ACC games -- soon to be nine -- plus an annual intrastate death match with the rival Gators is difficult enough.
"I know our administration was frustrated by West Virginia's decision, and I can tell all our fans that we've done everything we could to explore all the options for a home game," said Fisher in the same statement. "I believe the plans are for the ACC to go to a nine-game conference schedule once Pitt and Syracuse begin play. With Florida always on the schedule, it will leave us just two non-conference games every year, so scheduling BCS teams will be more challenging from here on out for everybody."
Football fans will suffer through what looks to be a dog of a contest in front of too many empty seats, not to mention the fact that Mountaineer fans tend to travel rather well and would have helped put a few extra dollars into the Big Bend economy.
"On behalf of the hospitality industry," Visit Tallahassee executive director Lee Daniel said in a separate statement, "we understand the difficult position FSU was in trying to replace West Virginia at this very late date and certainly appreciate the efforts to keep a seventh home game. According to Bonn Marketing Research, the direct economic impact of [an] FSU home game can range anywhere from $1 million to $10 million depending on the opponent and time of the game. This impact is certainly significant and important to our hotels, restaurants, retail establishments and other businesses."
Interestingly enough, Spetman said later when speaking to reporters that the 'Noles are still prepared to go to Morgantown in 2013 and face West Virginia at Milan Puskar Stadium for the second half of the original home-and-home series.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
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