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College Football Insider - The Corey Surrency Situation

7-17-09

Corey Surrency was waiting around today to see if he was going to be taken in the NFL Supplemental Draft, although that's not the way he really planned it.

No NFL team took a chance on him (which requires giving up a draft choice), and that completed a double whammy of sorts.

Surrency, a wide receiver who until recently was playing for the FSU Seminoles (+200 to win the ACC's Atlantic Division at BetUS) had troubles with the law as a kid, and after a while wound up at a Christian Fellowship camp, then moved on to El Camino Community College in California, where he was rated the top JC wideout in the country, and finally on to Florida State.

Before he went to El Camino, he spent two years with the Florida Kings, a semi-pro club (really an amateur team, truth be told) whose objective is to assist athletes who may not have completed high school, or played in college, with a chance to get their life together and go to the next level. The Kings are operated by a unique mother-daughter tandem, president Mercedes Wiggins and coach Kim Wiggins, which constitutes the first time anywhere to my knowledge where such a duo runs an all-male football team.

Apparently the NCAA didn't look kindly upon this stint for Surrency. They invoked Rule 14.2.3.5, titled, "Participation After 21st Birthday," which states: "If an individual participates in an organized sport after his 21st birthday, but before enrolling in college, that participation "shall count as one year of varsity competition in that sport." With that, his years were effectively used up. He appealed, quite understandably, but to no avail.

So Surrency loses a year of eligibility and he is out.

I've got further news for you, something no one else seems to know about - Surrency also took a turn as a pro boxer, stepping in as a 192-pound cruiserweight for a fight against Francisco Palacios in March of 2004, losing on a first-round knockout. Interestingly, Palacios is now 18-0 and one of the best cruiserweights in the world, ranked #3 by the WBA and #3 by the WBC.

They fed him to the wolves then, and they're feeding him to the wolves now.

Gee, good thing that KO didn't happen after Surrency's 21st birthday.

“We are disappointed that Corey has lost his appeal, but I appreciate our administration going to bat for him,” Bowden said. “I hope that Corey can continue to play on the next level and we will do all we can to help him get that chance.”

That sounds like something the sports information director crafted for about three seconds, then handed him to read. Or maybe I'm missing the passion in the statement?

The rule is kind of silly. If I'm not mistaken, Chris Weinke spent six years playing in the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system after graduating from high school, then enrolled at Florida State (currently +220 to win the national title at BetUS) and won a Heisman Trophy at age 28. This rule, I am told, was in effect at the time. So wazzzup?

Wazzup is that Bowden screwed Surrency from the beginning, under the guise of giving him an "opportunity." This kid was told he was going to play right away, as Jimbo Fisher, the offensive coordinator, sold him on Florida State (+150 to win more than eight games at BetUS) over LSU, after Surrency de-committed from Colorado. Surrency was not unwanted; a lot of major college programs were after him. Then he got essentially put on the shelf. He averaged 20 yards a catch, but he only had twelve receptions.

Oddly, he tied for the team lead with four catches of 30 yards or more, which should give you an idea of what he could have brought to the table for the 9-4 Seminoles had they paid more attention to him. Yeah, I know the common rap - "He was undisciplined as a player....He should have run routes better." He also has the kind of talent that seems to be continually mismanaged by Fisher. One scout had told me at the start of the season that the 6'5" Surrency was going to be a major asset for FSU. "They have a guy who absolutely nobody can cover, if they do the right thing with him," is what he said.

Well, they didn't do the right thing with him, which is kind of why I am going to be skeptical of Florida State (currently +250 to win the ACC at BetUS), as the staff embarks on a season (or two) that they hope may send Bowden out on a winning note. Why didn't the FSU program know this, to act on it, beforehand?

The NCAA screwed him too. The information about Surrency's participation with the Kings was hardly a secret. I saw it on blogs; I read it in news stories. It was part of the come-from-nowhere tale that made him so intriguing. Why didn't the NCAA betting picks rule on this before the start of last season, when he would have had a chance to give himself time to get ready for the draft?

Here's an interesting question - should Weinke not have been ruled ineligible after his first year at Florida State, as would be the case if the rule were followed? Wouldn't that necessitate FSU forfeiting some losses, and thus the 1999 national championship, because of the use of an ineligible player, and wouldn't Weinke have to give back the Heisman he apparently won under false pretenses?

Food for thought.

None of this would be music to the ears of Bowden, who is facing the subtraction of 14 wins from his career record, which would severely hamper him in his "race" with Joe Paterno to see who will win the most college football games, or keel over trying first, I suppose.

Bowden is absolutely despondent. It almost brings a tear to your eye.

“I’ve been coaching for 55 years and never been accused of cheating,” he says. “And now we’re going to get punished like this for something we knew nothing about? And when we did find out about it we turned ourselves in. We did everything we were supposed to do. But somehow this just does not seem fair.”

Let's forget about scheduling the soft touches like Chattanooga, Jacksonville State (which is in Alabama, by the way) and Florida A&M that only serve to cheaply pad the precious record he is so worried about protecting. Bowden has long brought thugs and thieves into his program for the purposes of building that record, then does the whole "hear no evil, see no evil" routine regarding their behavior until evidence of it slaps him right in the face. It's more a matter of taking action when others were about to find out about it then when HE found about it. That's called "getting ahead of the story." And when he implies that he doesn't know anything, or doesn't have anything to do with it, that's a half-truth at best. He knows about the character of his players when he brings them to FSU, and if he doesn't, shame on him. The NFL does extensive background checks on players it considers drafting. For a program that can pay its head coach $2.5 million, more than any other state employee, that shouldn't be too expansive a task to perform.

Naturally, you shouldn't kid yourself for one minute - bad people are more often overlooked than anything else. Maybe taking away fourteen wins - or more - from a coach on the verge of making history is just the right message to be sending along to other coaches who want to play fast and loose with the title of "student-athlete."

Here's a delicious irony (for those who are into delicious ironies) - in Surrency you had a kid who was not perfect by any means, nor an angel (he was suspended for two games by FSU last year - one of which came after he was in a fight). Yet in some ways he was exactly what the NCAA is looking for in a major college athlete. He was actually using college athletics to help improve his own life. In other words, he was trying to pull himself back up instead of tearing the program down. How do I know that? Because if he wanted, he could have easily offered himself to NFL teams in the off-season, and he would have found is way into a training camp for sure. Instead, he decided to play another year and fulfill a promise to his dying mother by getting a degree, and was indeed pursuing one in criminal justice. Now that it extremely unlikely to happen.

For all intents and purposes, Bowden rolled over for the NCAA. Yeah, maybe there was nothing he ultimately could have done, but he could have fought harder for Surrency; he could have insisted that some of their unnecessary rules actually have the effect of working against athletes, and could have helped a kid get a whole new lease on life. However, it is the preservation of a milestone - and a somewhat artificial one, when you're really honest about it - that has preoccupied his time, and his effort. I guess he knows where his priorities lie.

And they bad-mouth gambling people, the only ones who seem to want to see an honest and level playing field. Go figure.

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