April 26, 2004 TALLAHASSEE Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin now has the rest of the ACC plugged into Miami's long-standing reputation for cutting corners on the diamond. Two days after Martin caught the Hurricanes stealing signs presumably from a television feed and passing them along via two-way radios and ultimately to their batters, the Florida State coach's phones were lighting up. A coach from almost every other ACC school called Martin some in support of his decision to speak out and others who expressed similar concerns after playing the Hurricanes in recent years. It seems that Jim Morris' program, which will join the ACC in 2004-05 along with the rest of the Miami teams, has something of a national reputation on this front. Martin had heard those rumors before, but he had refused to acknowledge that Morris an assistant for Martin in 1980-81 would do something so low. Not any longer. "It's very, very hard for me to comment on rumors," Martin said. "The only thing I can comment on is what I heard with my own ears. I heard two pitches called (when an FSU radio picked up another frequency) that we called." In baseball, there's a fine line between gamesmanship and cheating. Gamesmanship might include figuring out the third base coach's signs from the dugout, or a baserunner at second stealing signs from the catcher and tipping his teammate at bat. There are many other, similar matters in the on-going debate about what is permissible on the diamond and what is not, and even baseball lifers can't always agree on the answers. On the other hand, using electronics a practice that is strictly prohibited by basic baseball rules to gain a competitive edge clearly would constitute an NCAA violation. And that could mean big trouble for the Hurricanes, who are still on probation for major infractions uncovered in 2001. Morris' coaching staff at that time included Turtle Thomas (now at LSU) and Lazer Collazo, who are no longer with the program. In fact, in his post-game rage after uncovering the scam, Martin said that both Thomas and Collazo have told him how the Hurricanes have stolen signs for years and conveyed them to batters with quick code words. Martin also said that Arizona State coach Pat Murphy and Georgia Tech's Danny Hall have accused the Hurricanes of stealing signs electronically since Morris was there. Even former Miami players have confirmed that practice to former FSU players. N.C. State's Elliott Avent, South Carolina's Ray Tanner and Arizona's Andy Lopez (formerly at Florida) also have had similar concerns in the past. If given a second chance, Martin probably would have declined to name names, as he did in his post-game rage after catching the Hurricanes in the act, though he stood firmly by his words. That's a problem in baseball. No coaching fraternity is closer, and turning on a colleague is extremely rare. Reporters' phone calls and visits with other coaches seeking comment on the Miami controversy turned up plenty of "off the record evidence," but nobody was willing to come forward on the record. It's the same way with relationships. Martin and Morris did not part on the best of terms a quarter-century ago, and though a rift still remains between the two strong but conflicting personalities, they have managed to remain civil while continuing college baseball's best rivalry. At least to this point. "This is not a dead issue," Martin said. "This is going to be handled by the two institutions and the Atlantic Coast Conference." Dee Todd, who oversees baseball at the ACC office, confirmed that she will conduct an investigation into the incident, though it's hard to imagine that probe amounting to any immediate sanctions, since the Hurricanes won't play a league game until next season. Barring what would seem an unlikely NCAA investigation, the only penalty the Hurricanes may serve is the one subjected by fans and their new league family suspicion and presumed guilt. Sadly, Miami's program is too good to be justly saddled with such labels.
Hoops Recruiting An Adventure Even two weeks after the start of the spring signing period for men's basketball, there wasn't a single word from Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton's office. That was not surprising, given the fact that he and his staff had been on the road for every day allowable in search of talent and not just for the Class of 2005. After signing top-50 guards Jason Rich and Isaiah Swann in the early period, the Seminoles faced the possibility of having only two more scholarships available for the Class of 2004. Now it appears that Hamilton will have five scholarship slots to fill in all. Recent rumors that junior swingman Benson Callier's days at FSU are numbered appear to be true. Callier played in only 11 games in 2003-04 and served at least three one-game suspensions for reasons Hamilton has refused to divulge. In mid-April, Callier was arrested and jailed in Tallahassee on an outstanding warrant for driving with a suspended or revoked license, with a surprisingly high $1,013 bond. Cutting Callier loose would open up another scholarship and allow Hamilton the opportunity to take full advantage of the NCAA's recent decision to rescind the hated (by all coaches) five/eight scholarship restrictions. The NCAA Management Council was expected to approve that proposal on April 29, and it will become effective immediately. Hamilton had been proceeding as if the Seminoles would be able to sign five prospects all along, accordingly lining up several players to fill the void should they fail to land (or get qualified) late post targets Tello Palacios and Jerome Habel. FSU has junior college big man Aaron Pettway in its sights, as well as 2003 signee Antonio Griffin, who failed to qualify and returned to Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. The Seminoles also are involved with Idongist Ibok (6-10, 230), a well-traveled Nigerian who is currently enrolled at Montverde Academy in Florida. On top of the frontcourt prospects, it appears almost certain that guard Ralph Mims, the Gatorade player of the year in Maine, will end up in a Florida State uniform if he can post a qualifying test score.
Takeover Should Help Basketball If you don't think politics play a part in athletics, you haven't been watching FSU president T.K. Wetherell work. In a move that went widely unnoticed outside Tallahassee, Leon County officials recently handed over control of the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center to Florida State. The facility, once considered the worst in the ACC but vastly underrated following renovations over the past five years, will continue to host concerts, shows and the like for the community. FSU, however, now will have the controlling votes to set the schedule for those events. How will that impact FSU athletics? It's hard to say exactly, but you can be sure that Hamilton's team won't have to go on the road for a first-round NIT game against Wichita State anytime soon just because the arena is booked for Sesame Street Live. It's also safe to assume that those minor league hockey, football and soccer teams that have popped up and created scheduling difficulties for the basketball program will have a lot more difficult time getting approval, with FSU now controlling seven of the 12 votes on the civic center board. Wetherell pointed out that FSU's controlling interest is appropriate, since the university is responsible for a majority of events booked at the 20-year-old facility. With the university able to dictate the scheduling of events at the facility, FSU should be able to pass along a calendar to ACC basketball schedule-maker Fred Barakat that is far more friendly to the program and its fans. Over the past three seasons, the FSU has played more two-day-turnaround games (example: Sunday-Tuesday) than any other program in the ACC. Part of that has been dictated by television, but scheduling conflicts with other civic center events played a part as well. Of course, the takeover comes with a price. FSU will assume $18 million in debt that is associated with the civic center's renovations. A good portion of that debt already is held by Seminoles Booster Inc., for the skybox additions in the renovation process. Accordingly, Wetherell said FSU is very mindful that it must be fiscally responsible with its controlling interest in the civic center. While that likely means Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will have more opportunities to complain about the lingering smell of a circus visit, clowns and elephants won't force the Seminoles to play a critical league game on Wednesday night, when many of FSU's fans are at church.