Florida College Football and the Age of Empires
Posted by Jordi
On the morning of the first big weekend in college football, I figured I would make my triumphant return to ScalpEm with an idea that has been marinating in my head for the last few months. This probably should have been written sooner, but I had to make sure my research was correct.
Before the season, I was thinking about how important this season is in the annals of Florida college football history.
Being an international affairs major and a bit of a history aficionado, this season reminds me of a very interesting point in 20th Century world history. Feel free to disagree, but I think the 2010-11 State of Florida college football season is very similar to post-World War I geopolitics. Now this may be the craziest thing you have ever heard, so let me explain:
Prior to World War I, empires still controlled much of the global geopolitical scene. During and immediately following WWI, the three of the biggest of these – the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the German Empire (a fourth being the Austrian Empire) – were still relevant and had much sway on the discourse of nations. Entering the discussion, but not yet in the class of “Empire”, was a small upstart power called the United States.
For many years, the Florida college football season was likewise dominated by three major players. Like the post-World War I empires, the Florida Empires each face different challenges as they enter the second decade of a new century. And as they confront their own internal identity issues, a new power is slowing emerging, growing every year in strength and confidence.
In matching empires to Florida college football powers, one of the easiest connections to make is that of Florida State to the Ottoman Empire. From 1299 to 1922, the Ottoman Empire covered a vast stretch of land spanning from Algeria to Iraq, Hungary to Ethiopia. During that time, the empire was ruled by a Sultan, who doubled as the Islamic Caliphate, or religious leader. Although power was dispersed, the sultan was still the “supreme monarch”.
Kinda like Bobby Bowden.
Continuing the analogy, during the final few hundred years of its existence, the Ottoman Empire was in a state of stagnation, again not unlike Florida State during the 2000s. Although many believe a portion of the Middle East is still suffering from this malaise, the nation of Turkey recovered from the destruction of the empire thanks in part to new leadership and a new national philosophy. Whether or not new head coach Jimbo Fisher can guide the Noles back up after the plodding rule of Sultan Bobby I has yet to be seen.
The second empire analogy is the University of Miami to the German Empire. Here the comparison is more valid in the years following World War I, when Germany was stripped of many of its national privileges, including the ability to build a military-industrial complex. They also could not export or import at the rate they did prior to the war. Eventually, they looked inward, to a leader who invoked the brightest confidence in glory days gone by. A man who, despite his evilness, promoted an increase in German pride.
Please note, I am not comparing Randy Shannon to Adolf Hitler, AT ALL. However, the hiring of Shannon and the emphasis on his pro-Miami background was done to return a sense of pride in the Hurricane players. The idea that the name “Hurricanes” means something once again to the players is what is important. Team pride is on the rise in Miami thanks to Shannon and slowly they are rebuilding the war machine in an attempt to establish a new Reich.
Unlike the German Empire, which would rebuild and rise from the ashes of WWI and aspire for world domination a generation later, the British Empire was all but deflated after the First World War. According to the Almighty, All-Knowing Wikipedia, World War I crippled the British psychologically more so than physically. Will the University of Florida face a similar fate? Will the years of domination and competition combined with the loss of their most esteemed athlete ever cause UF to slip from the ranks of the elite? It is very possible that the UF fanbase could fall off the immense high they have been on for the last four years and end up like the bored and disinterested Red Sox Nation.
Besides an effect on their national standing, British prestige also took a hit after the Great War. Slowly those who saw allying with the British as the only way to go began to reconsider their options. This phenomenon is not unlike the most recent recruiting class, particularly the decision of highly touted running back James Wilder to attend FSU over UF among others.
Last, but definitely not least, is the University of South Florida. Not considered a major power until recently, USF’s rise to relevancy is similar to that of the United States. An outsider in global geopolitics immediately after the war, the US found itself on level ground with the Empires after the war due to circumstances and opportunity.
Unfortunately however, the United States withdrew from discussion and practiced isolationism for several years until the Great Depression and the Second World War thrust them back in the spotlight. Unless USF loads up their schedule with powder puff cupcakes and focuses only on the Big East, I do not see them taking an isolationist route. Only time will tell if their strategy of taking on the old empires head-on is a wise one, but I think new Head Coach Skip Holtz will carry the tradition of his predecessor and heritage and continue the stampede.
Of course, there have been many other changes throughout college football leading into this season. In the past few months, the headlines have proclaimed tales of new alliances, scandals, reloading, and rebuilding. Across the nation, programs have flexed their muscles (Texas), and had their muscles taken away (USC). But nowhere is the presence of change more prominent than in Florida. And now, as each major program in the state faces its first huge challenge of the year, fans can only watch as a new era of college football in Florida begins.