- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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Editor's note: RecruitingNation is taking a look at the state of each team's brand.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- On the first day, it rained.
A day later, it rained again, and on through the rest of Florida State's first week of practice, forcing the Seminoles to move workouts to the wee hours of the morning, with players taking the field long before the sun rose.
"It's another reason for us to get this indoor facility," quarterback EJ Manuel said. "Win a national championship and maybe we'll get one next year."
Manuel's aside was meant to be humorous, but it underscores the reality of life on the margins of college football's elite.
A decade ago, things were different. Florida State was dominant, a perennial top-five team and the prototype by which other programs were measured. But the new millennium has not been kind to the Seminoles, once the crown jewel of the ACC but now overshadowed by SEC neighbors such as Alabama, Florida and LSU.
If the Seminoles want the perks that come with excellence, like that indoor practice facility -- there is no more room for mediocrity.
"Winning is everything, so when you don't win, your brand takes a move back," FSU athletics director Randy Spetman said. "It puts huge expectations on us, and we've got to come through with that. And I think we will."
For Florida State fans, Spetman's optimism is universal. It is August, and hope is as omnipresent as the humidity in Tallahassee.
But for outsiders who've seen the SEC reel off six straight national titles -- while the ACC's former powerhouse hasn't won a BCS bowl game or finished with fewer than three losses since 2000 -- another year of midsummer hype for Florida State can be met with a shrug of the shoulders and roll of the eyes.
As the Seminoles drifted from dominance, the conference followed suit. Since FSU won the Sugar Bowl to end the 1999 season, then finished 11-2 and won the conference in 2000, the ACC has been a woeful 1-11 in BCS bowl games, including three losses by the Seminoles.
Florida State has continued to recruit well and spend liberally, but it has seen the kings of the SEC make a giant leap forward. FSU's budget of nearly $87 million in 2011 topped all ACC schools, according to a report published by USA Today, but was dwarfed by six SEC programs.
"We do have tremendous resources, and what we've built over the years with our facilities, we're among the top in the nation that way," Spetman said. "But we have to continue to be visionary to think what the next step is, and that goes with the indoor (facility) coming here and to keep us competitive in that light."
Moving forward for many FSU fans might mean moving away from the ACC, and the school's dalliances this spring with the Big XII -- which could provide greater revenue -- became as divisive an issue as any quarterback controversy.
Several prominent power brokers reportedly pushed for Florida State to make the move, but the buzz quieted by early summer. A new deal between the ACC and the Orange Bowl has tempered any discussions.
Much of what's to come will be determined largely by wins and losses.
"…We have a responsibility from our university level too to win at the national-championship level to bring our conference that distinction," Spetman said.
Spetman points to FSU's top recruiting classes in recent years, lofty expectations in 2012 and the impressive resume of coach Jimbo Fisher as reasons for optimism.
But Fisher's success at Florida State has come not so much by being an innovator, but by simply forcing the Seminoles program into a reality the SEC -- Fisher's former stomping grounds -- adapted to years earlier.
Florida State has been the sleeping giant for too long. But Fisher says the fix won’t be found looking back.
"We have dwelled on the past so much that it's time to move forward and look forward," Fisher said. "I think it's time to make new history. I want them to say, 'Hey, from 2010 to 2020, that was a heck of a run.' "
Note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly reflected the year Florida State won the Sugar Bowl.
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