Clark: FSU's Norvell navigates wide range of topics at ACC Kickoff
It was evident early on in his lengthy sit-down interview with the assembled press at ACC Kickoff on Thursday that the questions were going to be all over the spectrum.
The first question Florida State head football coach Mike Norvell was asked on the dais was whether he had a chance to clear things up with Dabo Swinney after the Clemson head coach's ridiculous rant last fall about FSU's administration using COVID-19 as an excuse not to play the Tigers.
Well, let me be clear: The questioner didn't ask him about Swinney's "ridiculous rant." Those were my words. But the point remains, Norvell was going to get all kinds of questions about all kinds of things during his 30-minute interview session.
For the record, his answer about Dabo was: "Not really. We both have jobs to do and are continuing to invest in our programs. And that's my focus. At the end of the day that's what we're going to do and continue to build Florida State back to where we need it to be."
Norvell was even asked a couple of follow-up questions about the Seminoles having extra motivation now when they go up to Death Valley in the fall.
"There's no need for extra motivation," Norvell said.
Fair enough. But you can best believe that beating Dabo, whenever year that comes, will be extra sweet.
As you can imagine, Norvell wasn't asked just about Clemson's head coach the entire time. There were other subjects to address. Lots of other subjects, in fact.
So here's a brief rundown on what Norvell had to say on various topics. With some Clark-isms sprinkled in there as well.
Let's start with Bobby Bowden and what Norvell remembered about watching those teams: "The way they played together, offense, defense, special teams. They played for something bigger than themselves. There was a standard of how they showed up each and every day and trying to be the best version of who they were and what they represented. You see that now. You see that with these former players who have gone on and are making incredible impacts.
"You know, we have had three NFL Men of the Year that have come through this program. That's tremendous. But it's not just about who they were and the jersey number they wore, it's the impact they made. And that was the standard, that was the expectation from Coach Bowden and those staffs. It came down to work and it came down to relationships. That's why they were able to play at the level they did. And that's what we're working to build here with our program."
I would also add that Bowden was as innovative a play-caller as college football had ever seen in the early days at FSU, and he made great coaching hires along the way. Most notably, of course, his defensive coordinator. We're not quite sure if Adam Fuller is the next Mickey Andrews, but boy wouldn't that be something if he was!
And let me take a moment to just add my own personal well-wishes and thoughts to the Bowden family. A great man. A great coach. Funnier than most comedians. And a great representative of FSU and college football as a whole. They don't make 'em like him anymore. I think we can all agree on that.
Now back to Norvell.
Naturally, he was asked about the proposed College Football Playoff expansion and its impact on the sport:
"We are in an age of the reimagination of college football. And to be able to look at that in the full scope, not only with the potential expansion of the playoff but what that experience would be for our student-athletes, the traditions in college football, all of the things that we have grown to love. We have to evaluate that.
"I'm excited about being able to see and really, truly think from both sides of it what that can mean. ... The game of college football is special, and making sure we're doing things to help continue to build that not only for now but for the future, I think, is critical."
I appreciate his sentiment here, but there won't be much evaluating. Extra playoff games means a lot more money. And that's what will drive any and all decisions when it comes to college football.
So, the opinions of the student-athletes and the opinions of head coaches matter about as much as the opinions of bald (but still devastatingly handsome) sportswriters.
Norvell's next question was about the rumored expansion of the SEC, which is where Oklahoma and Texas are eying for their next conference destination.
He's the head coach at Florida State, and these reports came out yesterday, so it's not like this is something Norvell has given a ton of thought to. But I appreciated the framing of the question because it was about college football as a whole -- and how a move like this, two MORE powers joining the SEC, would alter the sport as we know it.
"There's constant changes that we see in college football. .... I haven't put much thought into that specific example (of conference realignment), but things are always changing."
OK, so not really all that insightful. But hey, they're not all going to be home runs. Get off the guy's back!
He was, of course, then asked about name, image and likeness.
More specifically, he was asked whether he thought recruiting would become an above-the-board bidding war for prospects:
"It is a new age of college athletics and how we operate. I'm excited to be at a place that's been very proactive in its thinking and providing education for our student-athletes. I'm excited to be in a state that has been very proactive in being able to set a standard of how we want to support our student-athletes. That's the great thing about being at Florida State. We have tremendous support, a tremendous brand, tremendous exposure. ...
"It's going to be fun to watch to see where it's going to go."
What's beautiful about this answer is that it in no way answers the question that was actually asked. That's a skill that can't be faked. Norvell isn't a politician. I think he's much more genuine than that. But he, at times, can speak like one. This was an all-timer, I thought. Just a pitch-perfect non-answer answer.
Luckily for us, he was asked an immediate follow-up about the same topic and then admitted there might be some issues with NIL to keep an eye on.
"You kind of have to watch and see and adapt to where this could go. I don't want to speculate on what that might be, but I think that's going to be an experience we're all going to continue to grow with."
Well done, Mike!
Now we have time for just a couple more! And these will be focused solely on Florida State.
He was asked about the large number of transfers he brought in this offseason, and how it should help impact the program in a positive way in 2021 and beyond:
"It fit what we were looking for. When you have the youngest team in college football, a lot of our guys have not seen or been able to have those leaders in the locker room that (show) what it takes. And the consistency that's necessary. ... To be able to add to that competition, to be able to bring some of that leadership in, the production that has come through the door, I'm excited about. But gelling those relationships, seeing those guys elevate each other, that's what's going to be key in our development as a program as well."
He brought in two handfuls of guys that he knows can play. It's not going to turn this squad into a championship team, but it certainly should help. If you want to know how impactful the transfer portal was for Norvell this season, just go look at the Warchant Top 40 list we did earlier this month. And really, really, really focus up there at the top. You'll get an idea of what the portal has done for the Seminoles.
And finally, he was asked about carrying the momentum of the offseason into the actual season and what that might mean for the Seminoles.
"For us, it's about establishing the foundation of who we are, the identity of what our program is and what it stands for, building on those values. That's what is going to sustain itself. And there's teams that have short-term success that are not able to continue that. We're looking to build our program the right way. We're looking to build our program through work, through relationships, and making sure we're finding the right fits for Florida State.
"Because we will get this program back to where it deserves to be. And when we get there, we're going to stay there. Because of the foundational elements and those values of who we are and what we're all about."
Not much to add to this comment, other than to point out how much I love the confidence. I have no idea if he'll get Florida State back to the top of the mountain or not — or even if there will be a mountain to climb if the SEC buys up the whole range — but I do know he believes 100 percent in his way of building and maintaining a program.
We'll all have a much better idea of how he's doing at this time next year at ACC Kickoff.
Contact senior writer Corey Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @Corey_Clark on Twitter.