There isn't just one reason for Florida State's gradual decline after playing for the national championship following the 2000 season, but one that can’t be overlooked was recruiting -- and the recruiting of quarterbacks, in particular.
Solid, consistent play at the position evaporated with the departure of Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, though many expected the Seminoles to restock as they always had. However, one defection turned those plans upside down.
This wasn't a decommitment; this was another option, and another sport.
Joe Mauer, the nation's consensus top quarterback prospect was signed, sealed but not quite delivered to Florida State in summer 2001. But it turned out he was a brilliant athlete in just about every endeavor he chose.
He was an elite quarterback who was named the USA Today Player of the Year as a senior at St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall. On the basketball court, Mauer averaged more than 20 points a game.
And then there was baseball.
On Team USA's junior national team, Mauer hit nearly .600. He was voted the country's top high school prospect.
Then the hometown Minnesota Twins took Mauer with the first overall selection in the 2001 draft, throwing a huge wrench in the Seminoles’ plans.
Mauer would, of course, sign with the Twins, and judging by his success, he made the right choice. Since arriving in the majors in 2004, Mauer has won three Gold Glove awards, been named to five All-Star Games and was the American League MVP in 2009.
But it left the Seminoles, and their fans, wondering what might have been.
Florida State went through years of mediocrity, by its standards. From 2001 to 2007, the Seminoles had six start at quarterback. Not until Christian Ponder's emergence under new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher would they have someone they could count on at the position.
What effect Mauer would have had on the program will forever go unknown.