Alumni enthusiasm has been a constant in history of Seminole Clubs
By Charlie Barnes, Executive Director - Seminole Boosters
Within a few decades after FSCW became FSU, loose associations of alumni began to form wherever volunteer leadership and passion for our university crossed paths.
In 1978, I was hired by the Seminole Boosters in large part to develop “Booster Clubs” to take advantage of renewed success on the football field and to help us reach more potential Booster contributors.
There existed a string of enthusiastic but independently operated clubs. All of them wanted to help the university and especially wanted to do anything to support new Head Football Coach Bobby Bowden.
Everywhere, individual ‘Noles gave unselfishly of themselves to advance the program. For instance, when Dade County television stations wouldn’t spend the money to acquire film of FSU games, flat silver cans of 16mm highlights were shipped out to some dingy 4 a.m. destination where Leslie Pantin would pick them up, then drive around distributing them to local TV studios.
The magnificent Jacksonville Seminole Boosters Club rallied its membership in petitioning the city to undo a grievous manifestation of the arrogance of the ruling clan at that time. Jacksonville featured two prominent bridges, one painted bright blue, the other bright orange. The Seminole leadership corps of 25 years ago that featured, among others, a young, pre-political Jim King, pushed the city to put the issue to a vote. They then succeeded in getting the orange bridge painted “dark red” in counterpoint to the obnoxious blue span.
As Florida State’s fortunes on the field prospered, so the club structure flourished. Jim King became the premier Godfather of Seminole Clubs, and I an instrument of his will. In their hey-day, the Jacksonville Club might have 800 people attend their weekly meetings during football season.
I traveled all the time, working with clubs and their leaders. Each year seemed better than the last, from the program’s record to the enthusiasm of the fans. The intoxicating motivator of success was infectious. Every winter, the Boosters hosted a Leadership Conference for fundraising volunteers and club officers. Our volunteer fund drives featured as many as 600 Seminoles working together at once to bring new Boosters into the growing circle of supporters.
By informal agreement with the FSU Alumni Association, all the clubs between Atlanta and Miami, and between Pensacola and Jacksonville were closely and primarily administered by the Boosters, and referred to themselves as booster clubs.
Clubs in the more brightly lighted arenas like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas referred to themselves as alumni clubs. Both Atlanta and Tampa actually had two clubs at the same time, a booster club and an alumni club. Each had a different set of officers, memberships and programming.
However, in the early 1990s, about the time we joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, the university administration directed that all the clubs be called “Seminole Clubs,” and that the Boosters and the Alumni Association would jointly administer them. There was some uproar over turf, but not a lot. In practical terms, since the Boosters and the Alumni office had been cooperating all along, the transition was smooth.
The annual Leadership Conference, once entirely a Seminole Booster fundraising and club development weekend, now became a more broad-based affair. Instead of just the Booster area chairman and club president from each area, now many officers and leaders from each club were encouraged to attend.
Toward the end of the decade, the Seminole Boosters geared up for our university’s first capital campaign for athletics. The Dynasty Campaign, which concluded at the end of 2002, raised more than $75 million in cash and pledges.
As remarkably successful as the Dynasty Campaign was, there was a price to pay. Seminole Boosters did not have the staff, the time or the resources to continue to maintain support for the very Seminole Clubs that had been built so carefully and with such heroic effort.
Fortunately, our university encourages and benefits from close cooperation between the Boosters and the Alumni Association. Former Alumni President Jim Melton and former Associate Director Betty Lou Joanos maintained full administrative and programming support for the clubs. In addition, Terry Johnson and Mike Palios not only established personal relationships with the club leaders, they took responsibility for helping with the formation of new clubs, and for expanding the Leadership Conference to encompass additional areas of interest within the University.
At the 2004 Leadership Conference this fall, the Seminole Boosters will roll out a brand new program of incentives and support structure for the clubs. Associate Director Jerry Kutz is the overall architect of exciting new Booster programs aimed at once again involving the clubs closely in Booster work.
Our clubs do wonderful work for our university and I suspect they will enthusiastically welcome these new initiatives designed to offer them more support, more tangible encouragement and more close exposure to the Athletic program.