CanesFire6433: "Get used to it because we ain't going anywhere and it's just getting started." (Note: all of so-called tweets are made up as are the handles...but they are good)
It's been a while since state college football fans had the fire in the off-season like we are seeing. After all, Florida fans, Canes fans and Noles fans haven't had much to cheer about on the field in recent seasons. But one off-season of cash flowing deals, new coach expectations and unlimited social media platforms have reignited a form of debate we haven't seen in quite some time.
These days it's a non-stop tweetfest that even UCF fans have joined in on with their move to the Big XII and their pursuit of higher rated recruits. Recruiting wars are alive and well in the Sunshine State and it's sort of refreshing.
GarnetandGoldGabber: "The talent we are getting is off the chart man, these guys are gonna crush it in the next few years."
Over the last five seasons Florida(2), Florida State(0), Miami(1) and UCF(3) combined to post six seasons of double digit wins. It's not been a dominant run of our state teams and things in Miami, Gainesville and Tallahassee have been choppy the last few seasons. But the hiring of Mario Cristobal and Billy Napier have pumped up their fans and expectations have led to the return of the roar after little reason to bark.
The recent recruiting battle of quarterback Jaden Rashada brought the fan fever to boiling level. After Rashada appeared to be leaning towards becoming a Gator, he made an official visit to Miami and then committed to the Canes. Then the stories came out about how much he was offered, received, asked or who knows and the twitter battle among NIL attorneys and then the statement put out by the Gator Collective and Miami's billionaire booster only inflamed fans to grab an iPhone and pound out your best tweets on the subject:
InNapierWeTrust16: "We have added three four-star recruits in the last week, Billy is just fine and so will Florida's class be"
MariosTheMan: "Straight cash homey. You either got it or you don't"
The 2016 season was the last time Florida, Florida State and Miami were all ranked when the season ended. The 2005 season was the last before that and no one is sure what the 2022 season will bring and most projections don't think this will be a season that ends with all three ranked. In fact, most win total projections have only the Canes and Knights winning 9 games with the Gators and Noles within the 6-7 win total.
But with the arrival of NIL(or I prefer to call it "Pay for Play") it's brought a new fever for fans. Now schools are not comparing recruiting and transfer portal team rankings, they are comparing the pockets of their richest boosters:
SwampDaddy87: "Dude, our collective has endless pockets compared to your one guy"
TheULives4Ever3256: "Ha, ha, ha.....Then why did you lose the QB you wanted?"
As I have said many times in the last few months, I don't believe the current model of paying for high school players is sustainable, not just because of the cash but also because of the other promises being made to recruits and their families and with no oversight of these deals the fallout will be bad and sad. But now fan bases are boasting about four and five star players and the amount of benjamins your team has.
But the latest hype and chatter has only turned the heat up on coaches, even the new ones. Some Florida fans have already jumped on their favorite social media platform and message board and made it clear that if Billy Napier doesn't improve his recruiting class he's already "on the clock" or whatever that means. And Mike Norvell knows if there's not a 13th game for his Seminoles the message boards and twitter talk won't be pretty.
A lot of the junk being said on twitter is ugly and toxic and some of it is way over the line and some of the expectations are unrealistic. But unrealistic expectations and college football go together. But here's what changed this off-season, a year ago Canes' fans were complaining about their coach and that dominated their off-season. A year ago, Florida was coming off an 8-4 season that ended with three straight losses and people questioning Dan Mullen's future. One year later new coaches give fans that honeymoon vibe and hence the expectations.
Even UCF has jumped into the chatter. Gus Malzahn has been one of the best coaches in working the transfer portal in his two seasons at UCF and that has led to the barbs:
KnightWatchman577: "We just took another big recruit from that school to the north"
AlbertBites093: "He was going to be our 5th best player at that position"
The stakes have never been higher in college football. The NIL/Pay-for-play era has truly turned the formula into how millions do you need to spend on a win? Donors may not expect a financial return on their money, but they expect an emotional turn. Fans see what schools are paying for coaches, assistants, analysts and now players and expect few to no losses....ever. Fan expectations are good to have. Most of them are not realistic, but there appears to be a renewed energy in our state where fans of our biggest programs have re-engaged to trade jabs and is something that's been missing in our state. And remember, we haven't even gotten to the season...
Final note: Miami's first season of football was in 1936. Among the 10 games the team played that year were games against Tampa, Stetson and Rollins