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Eddie Robinson Classic may not continue

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 25, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For a moment on the eve of kickoff, Eddie Robinson sounded nothing like a long-retired coach.

"For 56 years at Grambling, this is the time of the year that really gets my blood flowing and my heart pounding," said the 83-year-old Robinson. "And because of the Eddie Robinson Classic, not a single thing has changed."

But Saturday night's game between No. 3-ranked Florida State and Iowa State looms as the last Eddie Robinson Classic.

The NCAA decided to eliminate such preseason games, exempted from the allowed maximum number a team can play in a given season, as a response to the proliferation of classics. A lineup that began with one, the Kickoff Classic in 1983, has grown to eight.

"We're hoping that through a dialogue with the NCAA, we're able to get a waiver just like the BCA has," said Michael Watkins, chairman and CEO of the Eddie Robinson Foundation and the coach's grandson. (The Black Coaches Association games, thanks to a TV contract, will continue through 2004.)

If this were the last edition of a game born in 1997 to honor Robinson, who ended his legendary career with the most wins in college football (408), the inclusion of FSU coach Bobby Bowden provided a fitting epitaph.

Bowden entered tied with his idol, Paul "Bear" Bryant, for second on the all-time Division I-A coaching list with 323 wins. Penn State's Joe Paterno has the record, 327 and counting. But Bowden doesn't measure his admiration for Robinson by what level of competition his W's came against.

"I don't know if we would have taken it (the game) if it weren't for Eddie Robinson," Bowden said. "That made it attractive."

BEAR BONUS: One of the incentives in Bowden's recent contract calls for a one-time bonus payment of $50,000 when he passes Bryant's 323.

FRUSTRATED OBSERVER: As his teammates stretched and worked out at Arrowhead Stadium on Friday afternoon, FSU senior offensive guard Milford Brown stood in a tunnel, out of sight and out of the picture.

"I'm hurting; my senior year's been taken away," said Brown, who learned Wednesday he lost an appeal to the NCAA and was ruled ineligible.

Brown remains on scholarship and should graduate in the spring. He plans to work out in hopes he is invited to the NFL combine in February off the strength of his 12 starts last season.

NUMBERS GAME: FSU and Iowa State earned $600,000 for appearing in the game. FSU sold about 5,000 tickets. ISU sold about six times as many, 30,000, and expected to have as many as 40,000 fans.

FAMILIAR FACE: Former FSU All-America receiver Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, with the Kansas City Chiefs, attended.

HONORED GUEST: After playing baseball against the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota first baseman and former Seminole Doug Mientkiewicz attended the game as an honored guest. The school is inducting him into the FSU Hall of Fame on Friday with Warrick Dunn, men's track star Leander McKenzie and softball standout Shamalene Wilson Broner.

"It's still a little of, I-can't-believe-it kind of thing," Mientkiewicz said. "When you look around at some of the guys who have been on that team and have put on the Seminole uniform and to think I'm going in as one of the better ones to have ever put on the jersey, it's special."

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