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AD: FSU vaults back into national picture after successful football season

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 12/2/2022 Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

As Michael Alford patiently waited in the tunnel to greet the Florida State football players last Friday, the Seminoles athletics director had a choice spot to watch fans storm the field to celebrate a 45-38 win over Florida.

Beating the rival Gators was made all that much sweeter by FSU (9-3) having its best regular season since 2016.

It’s been quite the turnaround in Year 3 under coach Mike Norvell, who inherited a mediocre program with a depleted roster and a fan base quickly losing patience with falling farther out of the national picture.

“There’s so much excitement about the program but, more importantly, the direction of the program,” said Alford. “That’s what’s exciting to see right now — the excitement from our fan base, excitement from our alums and the excitement around campus. It’s been a few years since we’ve had this [type of] excitement and I couldn’t be more proud of where the program is heading.

“How the program’s getting to where it’s heading with Mike and the values he’s installing and the character of the young men associated with the program, that’s what’s even more exciting.”

The Seminoles enter the postseason ranked No. 13 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, the highest an FSU team has been ranked since finishing No. 11 in 2016.

The turnaround also has led to an increase in attendance, with Florida State averaging 67,254 at Doak Campbell Stadium for its seven home games, according to the latest NCAA figures. That’s the highest since 2018, when the program averaged 68,288.

To that point, last week’s showdown with Florida was sold out.

“From what I’ve heard talking to our ticket office, It was the hardest ticket they’ve had in 10 years,” said Alford. “That speaks to the vibe and the excitement around the program itself from our fan base.”

That also has carried over into the athletics department’s fundraiser sector, a big part of Alford’s vision since taking over the department last December. Previously, he served as the president and CEO of Seminole Booster, Inc.

“It’s going extremely well. People are excited to support us,” he said. “They understand where we are as an institution and being in the state of Florida. We have to be self-sustaining, so we don’t get any assistance from the university.”

Those donations are paying off in a big way, with the department set to break ground on a 150,000-square foot football operations building on Dec. 17. The project was unveiled in 2018 as part of a five-year, $100 million fundraising campaign started by the school and the Seminole Boosters.

The football facility will be adjacent to the indoor practice facility and the practice fields. It will feature position meeting rooms, a locker room, a recruiting lounge, offices for the coaching staff, strength and weight training center and virtual reality/performance enhancement areas.

“It’s still moving along as we anticipated,” he said. “[I was] looking at some final designs [recently] and had a meeting about it.”

If everything falls together on the timeline, Alford said the new facility would be open in the late summer of 2024.

Fresh off this stellar season, it only makes sense to consider a raise for Norvell, who signed a 6-year, $28 million deal when he was hired in 2019. Alford extended that deal to 2026, with the third-year coach set to make $3.03 million this season.

“That’s something you are always evaluating,” Alford explained. “I extended him last year, but you’re always looking at the valuation. You’re looking at the market. We’re so proud of him for what he’s been able to do with this program. So it’s something we’re always looking at.”

Florida State’s re-emergence onto the national scene is good for college football and the ACC as a whole, particularly with the league facing outside challengers in conference realignment.

“If you go back and look, even over the last 10 years of TV ratings, when we haven’t been our best, we’re still leading regular season TV ratings,” said Alford. “It’s very important for our conference, for Florida State and college football that that brand is relevant and competing at a national level and competing for championships. That’s what’s been exciting to see, us getting that brand back.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Matt Murschel at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.

©2022 Orlando Sentinel. Visit orlandosentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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