McPherson, a sophomore from Bradenton, who was named Florida's top prep player in 2000, becomes the Seminoles' first mid-season change at quarterback since Casey Weldon replaced Brad Johnson 12 years ago.
"We just felt like we should,'' said Coach Bobby Bowden, announcing the decision after Monday night's practice, as FSU prepared for Saturday's game against Wake Forest. "I didn't want to drag it around all week I wanted to put him (McPherson) up there with the first team, and let the team know he's the starting quarterback and go to work on it."
Rix, who has struggled to win favor among his teammates since becoming the starter last year, committed two costly third-quarter turnovers in the Seminoles' 34-24 defeat to Notre Dame last Saturday. Frustration filled the FSU locker room moments after the game, as many defensive players, unhappy with the quarterback situation, called for changes.
Bowden, however, insisted the decision was something he reached after contemplation Sunday. He walked into his morning staff meeting Monday and told offensive coaches that McPherson needed to be the starter.
"We all agreed it needed to be done,'' Bowden said. "It's not like we're going to put him in there (against Wake Forest) and if he doesn't do good, get him out. No, he's the first-team quarterback We never know what he can do (as starter) until we see, so we're going to see.''
Bowden informed Rix of the demotion Monday afternoon. At the same time, McPherson met with quarterback coach Daryl Dickey and offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden.
"Chris handled it just like you wanted him to... he said he understood,'' Bowden said. "I told him to prepare for this game, just like you always do.''
McPherson, meanwhile, said he is eager to make the most of his chance. Fans cheered loudly when he entered Saturday's game against Notre Dame in the fourth quarter. He completed eight of 11 attempts for 118 yards and led the Seminoles to a pair of late touchdowns.
McPherson looked like a different quarterback than when he replaced an injured Rix against Clemson on Oct. 3. In that game, he failed to complete any of his six pass attempts.
"Now it's up to me to make the most of it,'' McPherson said. "I was excited (upon being told he was starting). That's why I came here... to get a chance to get on the field and perform.''
Bowden had promised to take a long, hard look at his quarterback situation this week in practice. Following the game, a subdued Rix was resigned to accept whatever happens this week, saying, "I tak responsibility for those turnovers. They're on me. Whatever the coaches decided, I can live with."
McPherson also believed he has made positive strides on the practice field since the Clemson game, when he was inserted in the first half but clearly struggled. He finished 0-for-6. McPherson was 13 of 26 for 165 yards and two touchdowns overall prior to the Notre Dame game.
"Someone has to give us a spark and it's mainly the quarterback,'' said center Antoine Mirambeau, who has been publicly critical of Rix in previous games. "He could spark it by making plays. If you're not making plays, it's discouraging to an offensive line.''
Added senior offensive lineman Brett Williams: "It doesn't matter to me who's back there. After losing three games, you've got to kinda start over and I think that's what the coaches are trying to do."