Florida State University’s
First “Sammie Seminole” Mascot
When the Seminole Tribe of Florida agreed to allow Florida State University to continue the use of “Seminole” as their mascot name, it was not a whimsical decision. Bill Durham, a Tallahassee businessman of Cherokee bloodline, has gone to great lengths to create a heritage that FSU and the Seminoles could be proud. Durham visited with the Seminoles and Chief Howard Tommie. The result was to design and produce an authentic Osceola dress uniform to be worn by a student portraying the great Chief Osceola. Osceola triggered the Second Seminole War in Florida when he killed an Indian agent at Fort King and then wiped out Major Francis Langhorne Dade’s one hundred and ten men military force marching from Fort Brooke (Tampa) to Ft. King (Ocala) on December 28th 1935. The Indian agent had taken Osceola’s wife Morning Dew who was part Negro and turned her over to the US military.
The student portraying Osceola rides an Appaloosa horse named Renegade to the center of the football field and thrusting a flaming spear into the ground prior to the start of each home football game. This ritual has been carried out for nearly 30 years since September 16th 1978 when Head Football Coach Bobby Bowden liked and sanctioned Durham’s idea. Bowden is currently engaged in a dual with Penn State’s Joe Paterno for the most game wins among “active coaches” in the NCAA program.
Male students applying for the riding mascot position must have previous horseback riding skills and must have a 3.0 grade point average to be selected as the one who will carry out the FSU/Seminole tradition. Students selected to act as Osceola are taught to ride bareback while carrying a heavy flaming spear, a feat that requires a specific form of athleticism. Additional students, both male and female, who meet the same 3.0 grade point average requirement along with four doctors of veterinarian medicine, take care of the Appaloosa horses for life. The horses have to be fed, sheltered and administered health care on a regular basis. The horses need to be safely transported to and from home games and to some away games. This is, indeed, quite an endeavor.
Years earlier in the fifties, FSU gymnasts were asked to tumble and lead the football team out of the tunnel for football games. Football coach Tom Nugent first asked Dick Gutting (See Part I FSU’s First Seminole Tumbler) to perform the feat after Gutting had approached Nugent with the idea. When Dick graduated, Chick Cicio, a Brooklyn native who had started college late after a stint in the Navy took over the tumbling duties. Cicio had served on the USS Intrepid CV-11 aircraft carrier. He always had to pull an Indian band up over his nicely shaped biceps to cover his Navy anchor tattoo when he dressed for his tumbling gig. The media began to call him “Sammie Seminole”. The name stuck. Chick remembers a couple of band members being called Sammie. Now “Sammie” became the name of whoever was the current tumbling mascot.
The role wasn’t difficult for Chick. He was theatrical by nature and by his previous training. He won the 1956 National Amateur Athletic Union floor exercise championship. His trademark skill was the “continental handstand” which he would perform in his routine.
In New York at Boy’s High School, Chick participated in five different sports: football, baseball, track & field, swimming & diving and “Leadership Team”. He took voice lessons with the beautiful Signora Inez Giglio who taught the “Bell-Conto system” of singing. Professionally, as a vocalist, Chick performed with the Russ Hart Orchestra, the Five Shades of Blue, Café Society, the Paul Bryant Orchestra and the Michael Jay Orchestra.
Chick feels that gymnastics and music led him from a life as a factory worker to become a professional educator. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from FSU and his Master’s degree from Western Carolina University. Cicio taught thirty-nine years in Miami Dade high schools including North Miami Senior High School, Miami Springs Senior High School and American Senior High School.
Chick is retired and resides in Weston, Florida with Jennie, his wife of over fifty years. The Cicio’s have a son Bob, who did gymnastics; and, a daughter Christine, who excelled academically and in dance. Chick performs on a regular basis at the Pembroke Pines Theatre of the Performing Arts.
While I was coaching at Miami Dade College, I would call Chick to come over and watch my team in a gymnastics dual meet. Upon his arrival I would ask him if he would sing the National Anthem rather than using the usual taped rendition. Chick would announce that his throat was a little sore as he was reaching for his ever ready pitch tuner in his back pocket. He would then proceed to sing the Star Spangled Banner perfectly without accompaniment to the spectators delight!
Chick was the head gymnastics coach for the North Miami Pioneers and I was lucky enough to get several of his best gymnasts at the College. Chick not only developed his athletes’ gymnastics, he taught them to be men! He continued his coaching for the Miami Springs Cavaliers, and again, I inherited several of his best athletes. He ended his career at American High School as a night counselor.
After Cicio, the Sammie Seminole tradition continued at FSU. Chick was followed by Jack Ryder, the 1961 NCAA tumbling Champion and now deceased. Joe Greene a transfer student from Dade County Junior College who excelled in trampoline work was the 1962 Sammie Seminole. Rick Miller, the talented all-around gymnast from California followed Joe Greene in 1963. Rick was followed by Bob Gramling in 1964 and 1965. Barry Rowars was the last Sammie Seminole in 1966.
Dick Gutting and Chick Cicio are members of the FSU Hall of Fame along with gymnasts Don Holder, Jack Miles, Jamile Ashmore and Bill Roetzheim and Dr. Hartley Price (Coach).