Florida State University’s First Seminole Mascot
By: Bruce A. Davis
Newspapers and publications across the United States have recently published an array of articles concerning the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s attempt to make 18 colleges and universities remove and change their Indian mascot names because the NCAA executive committee banned the use of American Indian mascots, nicknames and imagery finding them “hostile and abusive”. The penalty for defiance of the ban is automatic suspension from the post season tournament schedule of NCAA sports. In other words, hurt the defying institution in the pocketbook to make it comply. Florida State University won their appeal of the ban, the only institution of the 18 to date to do so, because the Seminole Tribe of Florida has long supported the use of the Seminole name as Florida State’s mascot. On June 17th. The Seminole Tribe of Florida passed a unanimous resolution reinforcing it’s position of supporting Florida State’s use of the Seminole name.
Bill Durham, a Tallahassee businessman with Cherokee bloodlines, takes credit for introducing Bobby Bowden, Florida State’s new head football coach in 1976, to the idea of the time- honored tradition of having a student dressed as Chief Osceola, on a Appaloosa horse named Renegade, riding from one end of the football field to the middle and thrusting a flaming spear into the ground. Durham claims to have thought up the idea when he was a student in 1962. The idea went on deaf ears until Bowden who liked the concept, made it a reality in a football game on September 16th, 1978.
The question is; “what gave Durham the idea in the first place?” After all, the student body had voted in the “Seminole” as the mascot name the same year that Florida State became co-ed; 1947! What happened on campus from 1947 until 1962 that could have given Durham the idea that he suggested to Bowden?
The answer is Dick Gutting, Florida State’s tumbling and trampoline champion. Florida State initiated it’s football program under Don Veller in 1950. Dr. Veller left football and became the golf coach. Tom Nugent, the next head coach was an innovative genius who created the “I” Formation and the Power “I”. Under Nugent, Florida State became a big school program with it’s first game against the University of Florida in 1958 and a victory over the University of Miami. Gutting went to Nugent with the idea of having himself dressed up as an Indian and tumbling in front of the football team as they came on to the field. Nugent liked the idea and Dick performed the tumbling for home games in exchange for a few free meals in the football team dining hall. After all, Gutting was a poor non-scholarship athlete from Chicago and every little bit helped.
Gutting admits he was full of crazy ideas! Jane, the facility manager at Katherine Montgomery Gymnasium was a part time seamstress. Dick had her make some special long pants that he intended to wear in trampoline competition. This was an unusual idea because trampolinists always competed wearing shorts. Dick felt that long pants produced better form; an idea he adapted from his gymnast teammates. The pants were gold in the front and maroone in the back to show off his twisting movements and with bell bottoms so he could grab a tuck on his double backs. Dick also had Jane make maroone and gold flaps with the Seminole logo on a belt. He had all the tumblers wear these over their shorts in competition.
When Dick graduated in 1955, Chic Cicio took Gutting’s place as football team tumbler and he was called “Sammie Seminole.” Chic, a New Yorker and 1956 NAAU Floor Exercise Champion was also a non-scholarship athlete. He would accompany the football team to the bowl games. Jack Ryder, 1961 NCAA Tumbling Champion and now deceased, became the second “Sammie Seminole.” Joe Greene, a transfer student from Dade Junior College where Gutting was now head gymnastics coach, became the third “Sammie Seminole” in years 1961 & 62. Rick Miller followed Joe in 1963. Rick was followed by Bob Gramling in 1964 & 65. Barry Rowars was the last “Sammie Seminole” in 1966. It appears that the name Sammie was chosen because it rhymes with Seminole and was not meant to be derogatory in any manner.
Vaughn Mancha, the former Alabama All-American who had been assistant football coach under Nugent returned to Florida State as Athletic Director in 1960. Mancha never liked the gymnastics program. Perhaps he was jealous of the five National Championships the gymnastics team had won in the fifties while football struggled. As Athletic Director, Vaughn Mancha took away the gymnastics team’s varsity status making gymnastics a club program.
As for Dick Gutting, he took several teaching jobs in South Florida including Southwest H.S., South Broward H.S. and Dade County Junior College--now called Miami Dade Community College. He earned his Masters Degree from the University of Miami and ended his teaching career teaching history at North Miami Beach Senior H.S. He was the Chairperson of the American Red Cross safety and aquatics programs for twenty years.
Professionally, Dick performed in professional trampoline acts with partner Whitey Hart called “Two Flips and a Flop” and “Dick Gooding and Whitey Hart” for twenty years. Television appearances included: The Steve Allen Show, Jan Murray’s Treasure Hunt, The Dave Garroway Show, and Jack Palance’s Greatest Show on Earth. Some of Gutting’s professional water show performances were: “Aqua Wonderland”, Bob Maxwell’s “ Aquarama“, Sam Snyder’s “International Water Follies”, Henry Vee’s“Aqua Frolics” and over fifteens years of fancy diving and tower diving on the Miami Beach hotel circuit.
Dick can remember coming in second only once in trampoline competition. He won the 1952 NCAA Trampoline Championship defeating even the great Frank LaDue; and, the 1952 NAAU Trampoline Championship. He perfected the concept of connecting his hard tricks together in short 25 second routines in his long pants with impeccable technic rather doing a long routine with weak connecting skills to fill up the 90 second time limit which was permitted for trampoline competition in those days.
Gutting came to Florida State as a trumpet playing music major who introduced the new Chicago sound, “Be Bop”, to Tallahassee and the rural South. He fronted a 12-14 piece band which played weekends at numerous military bases in four Southern states and at campus fraternity and sorority parties. It helped pay his way through college .. For his post freshman musical recital he was asked to perform a Franz Joseph Haydn classical piece. Dick instead chose “Just about Midnight “ from the Thelonious Monk repertoire playing it in what he called “a Haydnish Style”. Everyone who heard it bought it except the music Department Chair. Needless to say Dick changed his major to physical education.
On another occasion, Dick was asked to be a guest conductor of the State Symphony Orchestra of Florida conducting the William Tell Overture at a “high Jinks” concert. Acting as the confused conductor Dick suddenly fell into the orchestra pit landing on a trampoline that been hidden from the audience in the pit. Dick proceeded to perform a perfectly timed “hi ho silver” routine to the “Lone Ranger” music. Dick even attempted playing tunes on the trumpet while bouncing up and down on the trampoline during shows.
Gutting can be found pictured in the Ft. Lauderdale Swimming Hall of Fame with diving buddies. He is one seven gymnastic program members induced into the Florida State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983. Dick’s son, David became the Greater Miami Athletic Conference gymnastics all-around champion in the late seventies and went on to Ohio State University on a athletic scholarship.
As a youth in Chicago, Dick tumbled and performed in Acrotheater at the University of Chicago under the direction of Bud Beyer. Dick wondered why all the military personnel were always around the University. Little did he know that the Atomic bomb technology was being developed in the basement. As a teenager Dick developed his tumbling, trampolining and diving skills at the Hyde Park YMCA under the direction of coach Dick Zuber.
Dick is retired and lives with his wife Susie in North Miami Beach. He is an active member of the World Acrobatic Society. Dick is one of the great American pioneers of gymnastics and acrobatic sports. He turned ideas into realities and showed us that anything was possible if you put your mind to it!
Bruce A. Davis, Professor Emeritus Miami Dade College, Director of Flip Flops & Fitness gymnastics school of Apollo Beach.
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