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Gridiron Nastiness Spilled Onto Track

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff


June 28, 2004 TALLAHASSEE — An on-going feud between the Florida State and Clemson men's track teams took an ugly turn at the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, when a pair of Seminoles were arrested following the beating of Tigers' sprinter/wide receiver Airese Currie. FSU triple jumper Rafeeq Curry, who had earned All-American honors a day earlier, was arrested and charged with assault and bodily injury. Sprinter Rhoan Sterling was charged with disorderly conduct. The incident took place at a social event, hosted by the NCAA, for all teams at a downtown establishment.

Currie was hospitalized for a broken cheekbone and facial lacerations and later reportedly required some plastic surgery as a result of his injuries, though he's expected to be ready for the start of the Clemson football season.

FSU track coach Bob Braman said Seminoles' triple jumper Willie Johnson was assaulted by a Clemson athlete, whom he declined to identify, other than to say it was not Currie.

The ugly incident came three months after the Seminoles and Tigers were involved in a brawl at the ACC Indoor Championships, which allegedly was provoked when FSU sprinter/football standout Antonio Cromartie shoved a Clemson runner during the 400-meter dash.

"We feel for Airese," Braman said. "This is senseless. … It's a horrible thing that we're all embarrassed about."

In a statement posted on the website flrunners.com, Braman later offered to tender his resignation if he could not bring an end to the off-track issues that have turned the spirited rivalry between the schools into a public black eye.

Tragedy Hits Tallahassee Again

For the second time in a year, the Florida State women's basketball program is coping with an untimely death.

Freshman center Ronalda Pierce, 19, died in her sleep June 8 after suffering a ruptured aorta. According to a preliminary autopsy report, the rupture was the result of an aneurysm, likely brought on by Marfan syndrome.

A complete autopsy will not be available until later this summer, but Pierce had many of the markers associated with Marfan, a congenital disorder that causes defects in a person's connective tissue. The disease, though undetectable by a single test, is most prevalent in very tall people. Pierce was 6-5.

Pierce's death came within days of the one-year anniversary of women's basketball academic advisor Matt Schmauch's death from an allergic reaction. Schmauch, 29, was working with the FSU football team in February 2001, when freshman linebacker Devaughn Darling died of cardiac arrhythmia during an offseason team workout.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Pierce family and everyone associated with our women's basketball program," Florida State athletic director Dave Hart said. "We are fortunate to have a support group in place at FSU, and we will make sure that the family, our student-athletes and the staff get the assistance they need."

Pierce's death came as a total shock. A projected starter as a sophomore, she had been a valuable backup in 2003-04, averaging 5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 29 games.

Tallahassee police responded to a 911 call from Pierce's off-campus residence, where a roommate said the Georgia native was breathing strangely and could not be awakened. Pierce was transported to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where she died.

Three Kickers, Not Enough Grants?

Given the costly shortcomings in the Florida State kicking game over the years, it's ironic that the Seminoles appear to be headed into the fall with three kickers on scholarship.

Senior kicker Xavier Beitia, who is poised to become the school's all-time scoring leader this fall, will compete with redshirt freshman Chase Goggans and freshman signee Gary Cismesia for kicking duties in August.

Beitia appears to be a near-lock to hold down the placekicking responsibilities, but Cismesia is expected to challenge him for the kickoff duties. Goggans, the nation's top-rated kicker as a high school senior, has had trouble adjusting to kicking from the ground, which has significantly affected his range. Many thought the developments would prompt him to transfer this summer, but that's clearly not the case.

"I'll be here as long as they want me here," Goggans said. "I don't have any plans to move or anything. I like it here."

FSU has an unwritten policy that prevents its coaches from running off scholarship athletes, even if it appears that they will not be able to contribute. That policy might challenge the school's creativity come the start of the fall, when the Seminoles might not have enough football scholarships to divvy up among its returning players and signees.

Barring an 11th-hour transfer decision by a returning scholarship player, or an unexpected failure to qualify by an incoming freshman, the Seminoles will be one or two spots over the NCAA's 85 scholarship limit when the final newcomers arrive in August.

In the end, the big loser(s) could be those one-time walk-ons who were on scholarship last season.

Troy State Fit Post-Expansion Need

With an eye toward season-opening Labor Day games against Miami for years to come, Florida State recently reached a football contract agreement with Troy State.

The open spot on the schedule was the result of FSU and Texas A&M mutually agreeing to drop their scheduled two-game, home-and-home series.

Though the Miami-FSU matchups are set for Labor Day only in each of the next two seasons, both schools are planning as if that series — before a nationally televised audience — will be maintained for years to come.

A relative newcomer to Division I-A football, Troy State will visit FSU in 2006, on the Saturday following what is expected to be the third consecutive Monday night season-opening game between the Seminoles and the Hurricanes.

Hart recently said he hopes to have FSU's schedule in place through 2010 in the very near future. Changes to the schedule, in an effort to maintain six home games a year, became necessary following the ACC's decision to expand, adding Miami, Virginia Tech and (in 2005) Boston College.

Hart estimated that each FSU home game is worth $1.4-1.5 million to the athletic department. That's critical revenue the Seminoles will try to maintain with a reconfigured home schedule that assures six home games in every season except 2007. Current contracts likely will prevent FSU from playing more than five home games that year.

Hoops Recruiting: Always Interesting

While men's basketball coach Leonard Hamilton has been conspicuously mum on the topic of his latest recruiting class, it appears that the Seminoles will have at least one other player (and possibly two) on board by the time the first day of class begins.

Junior college swingman Antonio Griffin, who signed with FSU last season but failed to complete his degree requirements, re-signed with the Seminoles and was officially announced as a newcomer by the school in late June. He is expected to be in school for the second summer session.

Griffin, a well-traveled 6-6 high-flyer, only recently completed his degree requirements, which finally led Hamilton to green-light the school's media relations department for an official announcement. Physically gifted and motivated after sitting out last season, Griffin is expected to push Andrew Wilson and Anthony Richardson for a starting spot.

Meanwhile, the Seminoles haven't closed the door on long-time frontcourt pledge Jerome Habel. Despite some challenging academic issues, which were complicated by multiple transfers during his high school career, the 6-9 forward could be another very late addition to FSU's 2004 class, although he may not be cleared by the university (or the NCAA) academically until the start of the fall semester. Habel was reported as an FSU commitment months ago and still hopes to play for the Seminoles, but the school has not yet announced him as an official signee because of his shaky academic status.

Hamilton reportedly is holding out hope that Habel, who is taking night-school classes, will qualify. If nothing else, recent internet reports that he definitely won't be in Tallahassee (and will go the junior college route at New York's Globe Tech) were premature, if not emphatically wrong.

With Griffin and possibly Habel in the fold, the Seminoles will be better in the long run now that they have frontcourt complements to the incoming guard trio of Isaiah Swann, Jason Rich and Ralph Mims.

In other recruiting news, 6-10 Bahamas forward Magnum Rolle, who committed to Florida State this spring as the first member of the Seminoles' 2005 signing class, recently decided to reconsider his options. FSU had hoped to place Rolle at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia (where Swann spent the 2003-04 season) for his senior year, and Hargrave officials reportedly told Rolle to find another school after they learned that he had reneged on his early pledge to the Seminoles.