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Minnis out of Orange Bowl

The Florida State All-America receiver, who participated in graduation ceremonies, is academically ineligible for the game.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 21, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State senior receiver Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, who emerged from the shadow of Peter Warrick to became a star this season, was declared academically ineligible Wednesday for the national championship game Jan.3 in the Orange Bowl.

"This really comes as a shock to the whole team," said Chris Weinke, the senior Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. "Snoop has obviously been a big part of what we have been able to accomplish on the field this season, but he also has been a big part of this program for the past three years as well. I know I personally feel very bad for him because I know he was on track to graduate this semester."

Minnis, a criminology major, participated in graduation ceremonies Saturday and is pictured on the back of the team's post-season media guide along with 15 other Seminoles who "Already Have Their Diplomas."

Final grades, however, were posted Tuesday, and the news of Minnis stunned teammates, coaches and administrators, athletic director Dave Hart said late Wednesday afternoon.

"He's only nine hours away from his degree, and we anticipated -- all of us anticipated -- he was heading toward that degree," Hart said.

He added that Minnis, the only Seminole to be declared academically ineligible for the bowl, didn't run into problems for "lack of effort," an obvious reference to the so-called Deion Sanders rule; Sanders stopped going to classes his final semester.

"It is not about not meeting necessary obligations," Hart said. "It's simply about not hitting the threshold that would have maintained his eligibility. ... There were no warning signals."

Minnis, who missed Wednesday's practice and was unavailable for comment, had done exactly what he brashly predicted he would do with the long-awaited chance to start -- he made people forget about Warrick.

Developing an uncanny rapport with Weinke, the former Miami Northwestern High standout led the Seminoles with 63 catches for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He had some of his best performances in the biggest games: 145 yards against Miami and a career-high 187 and two touchdowns against Florida in a game that propelled FSU into the Bowl Championship Series title game against No. 1 Oklahoma.

He was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver and was recently named first-team Associated Press All-American, joining an elite group of Seminole receivers: Biletnikoff (1964), Ron Sellers ('67-68), Lawrence Dawsey ('90) and Warrick ('98-99).

"I feel for Snoop because he loves to play," offensive coordinator Mark Richt said. "Of all the guys we have on the football team, he probably loves to play the most, loves to practice the most. We'll miss him a lot. I know he'll do well. It's just sad it has to finish this way.

"It's awful, but that's what happens if you don't take care of your business. You have to pay, and Snoop's going to have to pay a big price. We love him, we feel bad about it, but we just have to move on."

Richt, who had just learned the news and hadn't talked to receivers coach Jeff Bowden, said junior Atrews Bell (37 catches, 675 yards, 10 touchdowns) might take Minnis' spot.

Sophomore Talman Gardner (12 catches, 198 yards, no touchdowns) also is an option, but he has been hampered by back problems all season and has seen limited action.

It would help if junior Robert Morgan (19 catches, 366 yards, 3 touchdowns) recovers from a broken toe that forced him to miss the past three games. But his status for the Orange Bowl won't be determined until the team begins working out in Miami after the Christmas break.

"I know Weinke's not going to be happy about it," Richt said. "On the other hand, somebody's going to get an opportunity to do great things.

"Snoop had to play behind Peter Warrick and didn't have a lot of fanfare and when he got his chance, he became a star. Maybe there's someone else waiting in the wings."

The last time FSU lost a key player to academics before a bowl, that wasn't the case. Backup tailback Rock Preston missed the 1997 Sugar Bowl against Florida.

He was sorely missed, especially when Warrick Dunn was forced out early in the second half of a close game. The Gators cruised to a 52-20 win and the national championship.

The story was far different, however, when running back Amp Lee missed the 1992 Cotton Bowl. Sophomore Sean Jackson filled in and gained 119 yards on 27 carries as the Seminoles beat Texas A&M 10-2.

"The way things have been around here for years is somebody has to pick up the slack," Richt said, "and somebody will pick up the slack."

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