Former Baltimorean Wally Burnotes sees Maryland-Fla. State ties come full circle

Phil Jackman

November 09, 1993|By Phil Jackman

This is one of those isn't-it-a-small-world stories. Or, they also serve who only clean up afterward.

The time is the mid-1960s and, down at Maryland, the Terrapins are hardly world-beaters, but they aren't a 1-8 team, either. Coaches are coming and going, Tom Nugent begetting Lou Saban, who begat Bob Ward, but there was one constant, and his name was Wally Burnotes.

"I was a student manager for three years and it was a terrific experience," recalls Wally, who graduated in 1967, married, settled in Baltimore and raised three children here until 1978 when his company transferred him to Atlanta.

"It was just last year that I moved to Birmingham, where they have two favorite sports: football and spring football. It's Alabama this, and Alabama that constantly. Thank goodness my son manages at Florida State. I have a diversion every week."

While Sean Burnotes, a senior, has had an eventful four years with the Seminoles to include three bowl rings and an ACC championship ring (to date), it's the kid's academics that has pop crowing: a 3.0 grade-point average while majoring in criminology with a minor in Russian.

With Florida State visiting College Park last weekend, where the No. 1-ranked flying circus posted a 49-20 victory, Wally Burnotes would have given anything to attend. But duty called in the form of a work assignment.

"Still," he says, "I had a pretty good time recalling all the wonderful memories and experiences I had as a member of those Maryland teams. And I related them to my son. It was eerie relating all the links and similarities between then and now.

"For instance, under Coach Nugent, I was assigned to the quarterback coach. Who was he? Lee Corso! During his playing days, Corso was the quarterback at Florida State under the then-coach, Tom Nugent. When Sean decided to go to Florida State in 1990 and become a student manager, his first assignment, as was mine, was with the quarterback coach."

The elder Burnotes was really rolling now: "Also under Nugent, another assignment of mine was working for coach Frank Toomey, an FSU grad who, like Nugent and Corso, has been inducted into the school's Hall of Fame."

Back in Wally's day, Maryland didn't have winning seasons, going 5-5, 4-6 and 4-6, but nearly every game was close with most conference games going to the last few minutes before being decided. All but the Florida State contest (a non-ACC meeting) closing out the 1966 campaign. The Seminoles weren't too bad then, either, sprinting to a 45-21 triumph in Tallahassee.

The Terps didn't score a couple of dozen points and pass for 400 yards weekly back then, but they didn't give up 50 and weren't headed for an all-time record for average yards allowed per game, either.

A postscript to Burnotes' managing days at Maryland: True to his Baltimore background and environment, Wally was a Colts fan beyond reason and, as such, had occasion to wager $1 on an important Baltimore-Green Bay game with a cagey beat reporter from a Baltimore newspaper.

The Packers won the game and after all these years Burnotes acknowledged that he had indeed lost the bet. His confession was not so complete, though, that he included the amount of the bet in his letter to this newspaper.

"I still have to ascertain how much interest I owe you before settling up," he alibied.

* If there's any such thing as experience in biggest of big games (otherwise known as the Nos. 1 and 2 teams colliding) being beneficial, Notre Dame has a distinct advantage when it gets together with Florida State on Saturday.

Over the past half-century, the top-ranked teams in the Associated Press poll have met 27 times, with the Fighting Irish being involved eight times with four wins, two losses and two ties. The Seminoles were beaten in their only appearance, losing to state rival Miami, 17-16, two years ago.

As opposed to bygone days when, after World War II, teams stuck pretty much to their region and the top two teams rarely had an opportunity to play, national schedules dictated by television make such matchups fairly common these days.

After the Army team of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis battled to a scoreless tie against Notre Dame and Johnny Lujack at Yankee Stadium in 1946, it was 17 years before Nos. 1 and 2 got together again. Then top gun Southern Cal squeezed by No. 2 Wisconsin, 42-37, in the memorable Rose Bowl game of 1963.

Since 1983, there have been 10 matchups between Nos. 1 and 2, with just three years missing out (1984, '90 and '92) and, as was the case in 1988 and 1989, Saturday's game will be the second dream confrontation of 1993. No. 2 Alabama whipped No. 1 Miami, 34-13, to win the national championship in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day, remember.

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