From that day forward until he retired in 1997, Corrigan worked to try to get the ACC a seat at the table with the football big boys. The most important thing he did was successfully out-recruit the Southeastern Conference for Florida State — giving the conference a true football power and an almost guaranteed spot in a major bowl game and the national spotlight every year.
There was just one problem: No one in Corrigan’s ACC could compete with Bobby Bowden’s team. During the Seminoles’ first nine years in the conference, they went 70-2 (that’s not a typo) in ACC play. In those days it was said that the ACC consisted of Florida State, the seven dwarfs and Duke — which aspired to be a dwarf. Corrigan’s theory — or hope — was that a rising tide lifts all boats. Instead, Florida State got caught in the ACC’s down-draft and slid to the mediocre level of everyone else.
Even after John Swofford, Corrigan’s successor, began raiding the Big East for teams the way most people raid their refrigerators, no one in the ACC could come within light years of the heights Florida State reached in the 1990s. That’s why the ACC has a 3-16 record in Bowl Championship Series games since the BCS was founded in 1998.
A week ago, it appeared there was genuine hope for the ACC. Clemson was ranked No. 3 in the country and had a win over Georgia. Florida State, in Jimbo Fisher’s fourth season as Bowden’s successor, was ranked No. 5 even though Fisher’s team hadn’t really been tested yet. Miami, after an embarrassing stretch of mediocrity that coincided with its move to the ACC, was also unbeaten with a win over Florida and ranked No. 10. And Virginia Tech, with only a loss to top-ranked Alabama, clearly had one of the nation’s better defenses.
Now? Welcome back to Florida State and, well, the 13 dwarfs — Duke having finally reached dwarfdom under Coach David Cutcliffe.
Florida State is a legitimate national championship contender. The Seminoles proved that on Saturday night when they went into Clemson and absolutely buried the Tigers, 51-14. It’s worth noting that Clemson scored the game’s last touchdown to make the final score that close.
There is no doubt now that FSU redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is the real deal. He dealt with the noise in Clemson’s Death Valley as if he was throwing the ball around the back yard with a bunch of friends. That said, Florida State is where it is right now because Fisher has proven himself a master recruiter. Coaching — and winning — close games has eluded him until now but he has brought in monster recruiting classes and the quality is very clearly starting to pay off.