TALLAHASSEE - In his final season in the NFL, Martin Mayhew remembers observing and learning from the way Bucs rookie coach Tony Dungy ran the team.
The Bucs started the 1996 season with five consecutive losses, finally catching their breath during a bye week. Once they returned to work, the Bucs finished 6-5 in their final 11 games, kick-starting the franchise's rise to respectability under Dungy.
Mayhew sees some similarity in the job he interviewed for Tuesday. Florida State's athletic department is down, still reeling from an academic cheating scandal involving student-athletes that has gained national attention. Mayhew, a former FSU football and track athlete, is interested in returning respect to the program the way Dungy did with the Bucs.
"First and foremost, I think we need to restore academic integrity," Mayhew said Tuesday during his interview to become FSU's next athletic director. "There is a credibility issue there."
Once his nine-year NFL career ended, Mayhew earned a law degree from Georgetown University and embarked on a career as an NFL executive. He is currently vice president and assistant general manager of the Detroit Lions.
While he admits he is short on experience in college athletic administration, he told FSU's 24-member search committee he would rely on lessons he learned from Dungy more than a decade ago to help him if he is hired.
"The first year, he didn't really do too much," Mayhew said. "In January, he made some changes. He came in, he assessed the situation, he looked at everything that was there, he spent some time evaluating, and he made some decisions he had to make.
"I think the assessment period is important. The thing for me to do is to come in and evaluate what we have, find out who I can rely on and can count on, and those people will help me make decisions."
Mayhew is one of four candidates for the job, joining Georgia Tech associate AD Wayne Hogan, former Florida Marlins president Don Smiley, and Randy Spetman, currently the AD at Utah State.
WRITING COACH: Former FSU offensive line coach Mark McHale, who lost his job after the 2006 season as part of Bowden's staff overhaul, spent his year away from football by writing "10 to 4 - Brett Favre's Journey From Rotten Bayou to the Top of the NFL."
In his first season as an assistant at Southern Miss, McHale recruited Brett Favre and convinced the program to offer the unknown QB a scholarship on the eve of National Signing Day in 1987.
"All I ever wanted was a chance, and Coach Mark McHale gave it to me," Favre is quoted on the book's cover. "Had Coach McHale not wandered by an out-of-the-way high school football field in Kiln, Mississippi, I probably never would have had a career in the NFL."
NOLE NUGGETS: Another former FSU assistant coach, Daryl Dickey, recently hired as head coach at West Georgia, has added former FSU player James Colzie to his staff as defensive coordinator. ... Bill Shults, new head of FSU's director of athletic academic support, began work Monday. ... In the first meet of her career, freshman Kim Williams recorded the longest triple jump in the nation this season, leaping 13.43 meters at last weekend's Tom Jones Memorial Classic in Gainesville. Williams was named ACC Female Performer of the Week on Tuesday. ... Former FSU and Bucs star Warrick Dunn is the winner of The Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP award. He will be honored today in Phoenix with a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice.
HONOR ROLL: Former women's basketball player Wanda Burns-Jackson will be honored in March at the ACC Tournament, representing FSU on the ACC Legends Team.
SOUND-BITE CENTRAL: "I hope you remember me by Friday." - FSU athletic director candidate Wayne Hogan, who on Monday was the first of four candidates scheduled to interview this week.
LOOK OUT FOR: Former FSU and Jesuit long snapper Garrison Sanborn is playing in the Texas vs. Nation All-Star Game on Saturday in El Paso, Texas, joining former FSU teammates Jacky Claude and Shannon Boatman.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Which candidate would you hire as FSU's next athletic director? To vote and monitor results, visit TBO.com, keyword: Noles.
TBO.COM POLL: Will the departure of longtime tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator John Lilly have a negative impact on the program? No (68.2 percent); Yes (31.8).
BLOG BONUS: No matter how you look at it, Florida State's bid to snap a nine-season NCAA Tournament drought is in real jeopardy. To read more, go to TBO.com, keyword: Noles.