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History of FSU in Tampa

Posted Sep 26, 2012 by Joey Johnston

Updated Sep 26, 2012 at 06:09 PM

Thirty-three years. That’s how long it has been since the Florida State Seminoles have played a football game in Tampa.

It was Sept. 15, 1979 and Bobby Bowden’s 18th-ranked Seminoles were on their way to an 11-0 regular season (before losing against Billy Sims and the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl). FSU hammered Frank Kush’s Arizona State Sun Devils 31-3 before 33,484 rain-soaked fans at Tampa Stadium. Arizona State was limited to 123 total yards while being terrorized by FSU’s defense, led by All-American nose tackle Ron Simmons.

FSU (4-0), ranked No. 4 nationally this season, will be similarly powerful Saturday night when it faces the University of South Florida Bulls (2-2) at Raymond James Stadium.

Overall, the Seminoles are 8-1 in Tampa with the only loss occurring on Nov. 26, 1970, when the Houston Cougars (and All-American WR Elmo Wright, inventor of the end-zone dance) ripped FSU 53-21.

There were six victories against the University of Tampa Spartans at Phillips Field, mostly during the 1950s, when FSU’s program was in its infancy and playing UT was more of a level-playing-field proposition.
There’s also significant history to the FSU-in-Tampa story. The Seminoles enjoyed the program’s first bowl victory in Tampa, defeating the Wofford Terriers 19-6 in the Cigar Bowl that followed the 1949 season.

FSU was just a third-year program and still being portrayed as a women’s college. The Seminoles believed they were getting Cigar Bowl watches. Instead, no cigar. They received miniature Cigar Bowl footballs, worth maybe a quarter each. The disgusted players dumped those footballs into the Gulf of Mexico.

When the Cigar Bowl came calling next season—and FSU was 8-0—the players voted not to go.

On Oct. 21, 2000, members of the 1949 Seminoles were invited back to campus. At halftime of the FSU-Virginia game, the Seminole athletic department presented them with Cigar Bowl watches. Yes, it was about time.

Overall, players say they had fond memories of the bowl trip, especially with visits to Clearwater Beach and the Columbia Restaurant. The game was a success as Don Veller’s Seminoles, behind Buddy Strauss and Red Parrish, prevailed on Jan. 2, 1950 before 18,000 fans at Phillips Field.

Saturday night, FSU returns to Tampa. Its visits have been rare, but in most cases, very significant.

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