Once upon a time, Florida State was a college football juggernaut. Year-in and year-out, the Seminoles were national title contenders, using future NFL stars as the backbone of ferocious defenses and athletic offensive schemes. In a number of those seasons, FSU's biggest stars hailed from Southeast High School, some five hours away in Bradenton, Fla., a school whose connection to Florida State was so strong it only seemed natural that they, too, were called the Seminoles.
Now, 51 years after Southeast High first started identifying all its athletic teams as the Seminoles, Florida State has asked the school to stop using the identical spear-emblazoned helmet, their shared Seminole Indian profile emblem, even the name Seminoles itself. Making the matter even more bizarre is the current employment of the most famous common alumnus of the schools, former NFL and Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick, who is an assistant coach for the Southeast High football team.
That must make Warrick, scheduled to be inducted to Florida State's Athletic Hall of Fame next Friday, the most conflicted Seminole of all.
The college is bringing the suit upon the Manatee County high school via the Collegiate Licensing Company, asking Southeast High to phase out its use of the Seminole mascot and all affiliated logos. The high school doesn't want to, and it claims it will do everything possible to continue using the mascot and logos unless it is absolutely forced to stop. Here's what John Bowen, who is serving as a lawyer for the Manatee County School District School Board, told the Tampa Tribune:
"Our goal is to continue our great relationship with Florida State University and continue the use of those marks,'' said Bowen. [...] "We don't want to get in a legal battle with anybody. [...]
"We haven't gotten to the point where we will draw a line in the sand," Bowen said. "We're not looking for a fight."
In other words, Florida State will have to sue Southeast High School to get them to become something other than Seminoles. It's probably the only sane position the high school can take, since it would have to spend as much as $100,000 to rid itself of all Seminoles references on Southeast High uniforms and buildings.
Caught in the crosshairs of this legal battle is a half-century of memories cross-pollinating the schools' historical records. As the Tampa Tribune mentions, Bobby Bowden used to visit the school on recruiting trips, part of what drove both Warrick and former FSU quarterback Adrian McPherson to commit to the university.
In the past, Florida State even went out of its way to accommodate the Southeast High program. Southeast coach Paul Maechtle told the Tampa Tribune of a week in 1988 when FSU allowed the Southeast Seminoles to use the FSU facilities to practice. The collegiate Seminoles even allowed their high school brethren to eat in their team dining hall.
All of that is part of the tradition that led one current Southeast player to say he couldn't believe Florida State would even consider forcing them to change their mascot. "People who have grown up around here, they have been Seminoles all their lives,'' Matt Fenske, a senior who plays three sports at the high school, told the Tampa Tribune. "I never thought in my wildest dreams that Florida State would come after us and try to take our logo away from us.''
At the end of the day, none of those historical connections may matter to the current Florida State administration or the Collegiate Licensing Co. If they do, then this latter-day war of the Seminoles may turn into a much more protracted fight than FSU anticipated. For now, it appears FSU hasn't even decided how far it's willing to push.
"We are looking forward to working with Southeast to reach a mutually agreeable plan regarding the use of Seminole marks and logos,'' said Liz Maryanski, interim vice president for university relations.