Auburn will play Florida State today, and guess what? There's absolutely nothing the Tigers can do about it.
This one's on the diamond, not on the gridiron, where Auburn's athletics department rankled the Seminoles and the ACC by exercising a $500,000 buy-out of the schools' football matchup scheduled for the 1999 season.
Today, the two teams begin a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional series at 7 p.m. in Tallahassee, home of the Seminoles. Hanging in the balance is a trip to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series -- and, just maybe, a few bragging rights as well.
"We fully expect to incur the wrath of the Seminole fans," said Auburn coach Hal Baird. "It's going to be a great challenge to our players, not only to play a great Florida State football team -- that was a Freudian slip, I promise you."
After Terry Bowden's messy divorce from the Auburn program last fall, those in the Seminoles' ranks eagerly looked toward Sept. 4, when the Tigers were to venture to Tallahassee and face FSU and Terry's father, Bobby. Instead, Auburn put up the cash and will now play host to Appalachian State in the opener.
Welcome to the next best thing, FSU fans.
"I don't want this game to bee looked at as anything that has happened between us," said Seminoles coach Mike Martin, whose team is playing host to its 19th regional since 1976. "This ball game needs to be decided on the field. The participants have nothing to do with the decision that was made by Auburn not to play us in football."
NCAA baseball site committee chairman Dick Rockwell said he wasn't aware of the bad blood surrounding the schools when he arranged the bracket that would eventually pit the Seminoles (51-12) against the Tigers (46-17) for the third consecutive year.
"I think I'm a football fan, but I guess I don't follow it as close as I should," Rockwell said early this week.
Perhaps Gabe Gross will attract the brunt of the barb barrage that is sure to envelop Dick Howser Stadium. The Tigers' left fielder also happens to be the quarterback for the football team.
Cheer and jeer all you like, Gross said, but here's one, simple directive: Be original.
"I would like to say `Gabe, Ohhh you're so gross.' I've heard that. It's old," Gross said. "Somehow people think it's so original when they first come out with it everywhere we go ... They think it's the greatest thing in the world, that they are the first person to come up with that one."
Larry Williams covers college sports for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706)823-3645 or email@example.com
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