Bowden pushes for facility

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 11, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - On the days the skies darkened, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden used to stand in the tower overlooking the practice fields, keeping one eye on the players below and the other eye on the horizon.

You see, time was that he had to make the call when lightning seemed too close for comfort.

"I had to make that decision for 50 years and that bothered me," Bowden said. "You're sitting up there and you're watching them daggum clouds and you've got 100 guys out there and you're worried about you too, sitting up there on that lightning rod, and you try to judge, is that lightning getting close to you?"

Now, a machine indicates when lightning is within 8 miles and the team needs to seek shelter. FSU increasingly has relied on the technology.

The Seminoles scampered inside the Moore Athletic Center last Thursday, limiting their final day of preparation for North Carolina State. The gymnasium-sized room with artificial turf flooring isn't spacious enough for the offense to work on long high arcing passing plays or for defenders to pursue a ball carrier as they would in a game or for kickers, punters and return teams to simulate their jobs.

One lost day is bad enough, but Bowden lamented that lightning forced his team inside four times shortly before the opener at Clemson.

"How do you know you might not have executed better if you'd got them in; you might have won that darn game," he said.

That's why he's beating the drums more loudly for FSU to build a true indoor practice facility.

"There's a bunch of people who are talking about it now," FSU president T.K. Wetherell said. "My guess is Bobby will really be promoting it on his (spring booster) tour and we'll go from there."

You're probably talking about a $10-million to $40-million project. That's a hurdle, not only to raise that money but dodging the PR backlash that would come as the university is raising tuition and making cuts. The other problem is location. The band field is an option, as is near the golf course.

"Football is too big of an operation financially where the elements can cost you," Bowden said. "You nearly have to defend against that."

HEAR ABOUT IT: Although junior linebacker Derek Nicholson was out injured for last year's 30-0 loss to Wake Forest, that hasn't spared him from the fallout when he's gone home. He's from Winston-Salem, went to high school with Demon Deacons defensive end Tripp Russell and worked out at the hometown university in the past. His friends at Wake had plenty to say. And show.

"They were flashing the Orange Bowl ring and the ACC championship ring and I was like, "This is crazy,'" Nicholson said, shaking his head.

GETTING STARTED: Junior basketball guard Toney Douglas hasn't gotten over the disappointment that he knew senior star Al Thornton felt when his career ended without an NCAA Tournament appearance. He's been using that as motivation.

The last thing he wants to see is this year's seniors, Isaiah Swann, Jason Rich and Ralph Mims, go out without experiencing March Madness.

"My teammates can count on me to do everything in my power to win," he said, eager for practice to begin at 8:30 p.m. Friday. "Whatever it takes."

Meanwhile, the women's team, fresh off the program's first Sweet 16 appearance, is thinking about taking that next step.

"We've had a great preseason and we have 11 kids who are extremely committed to what we want to get done at Florida State," said coach Sue Semrau, whose team begins practice at 7 Friday night.

Her players all realize that the Road to the Final Four ends in Tampa and the St. Pete Times Forum. Can the Seminoles make that two-hour drive? Well, the preseason magazines have FSU in their Top 25 - No. 16 in Lindy's, No. 22 in Athlon and No. 23 in the Sporting News.

"We're not thinking that we've arrived," Semrau said, "but we're working hard and really moving in that direction."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.