But Mudra, who coached only two years, was one play away from possibly turning a team, a season, and a program around. In his first year, his winless Seminoles were playing Alabama off their feet in Tuscaloosa. Had 'em down 7 - 3 with about 90 seconds left in the game. Then, a fateful decision that Mudra fully admits lost it for FSU.
Had the Noles beaten the reigning national champs, who knows. A more confident team that knew it had beaten the best should have won a few more, bolstering recruiting and pulling a losing program out of the ditch. Mudra might have been given more time and resources. And Bobby Bowden may never have gotten the call in 1976.
Coach Mudra took time out from his daily fishing trip in the Gulf to recall how, despite winning only four games in two years, he breathed new life into the program, teeing it up for Bowden to take to heights that FSU fans of the early 70s never imagined.
"We made a terrible error at the end of the Alabama game when we took a safety. About the only way they could win was to block a punt. And we didn't take into account that if we hadn't given up that safety, they would have had to score a touchdown. And they hadn't scored a touchdown the whole game. Our punter was a senior and the reason we took the safety is we thought he'd be able to get off a good punt. And without any rush, he had his poorest kick.
"Then Alabama had good field position. They only had one play, I think, and then kicked their field goal.
"Before we took the safety, though, we made a first down and it was bedlam. And, of course, if that first down holds up, the game's over, because there was only about a minute to go. But the officials called us for a movement penalty. We looked at the film (later), and we didn't see anybody moving. That was a terrible call.
"We actually missed three field goals that day. In that first year, we didn't have time to really check out our kicker. So our kicker was a kid from Turkey, who was over here because he wanted to avoid the draft. We just made a mistake playing him. I think we found somebody else before the season was over.
"And I remember we started eight true freshmen against Alabama."
"We took over a program that was really in disarray. They didn't even have five pounds of weight. Our weight coach went down to Deland and picked up a bunch of Nautilus machines, and we stared a weight program.
"The other factor when I went to Florida State, the players lived in kind of a den of iniquity at Cash Hall. But we had our study table in the History Building, and our meals at the Student Union. Our players were just all over the place. So the first thing we did is we bought a motel, which was only about a block from the stadium. That got our housing problem worked out. And that first year they had a plan to build a kind of fantasy office for the athletic director. Well, we took the money that was supposed to go into that building, and we built the weight room and an off-season program area. And we used that also for our meals, as well as our study table. So we consolidated everything right there at the stadium to make it easier for the players.
"I think in our second year we lost five games by 15 points. We thought we'd probably win eight games the next year (1976). I remember Bobby Bowden in his book, he said he thought we'd have won more games than he did (in '76). He ended up with a losing season his first year.
"Later, Bobby Bowden invited my team back and he told all my players that he thought our team, the second team that we had there (in 1975), really turned the program around."
Epilogue: After being fired at FSU, Mudra didn't coach again until 1978. At Eastern Illinois University, Mudra took a program that was 1-10 in '77 to a 12-2 record in '78, and won the I-AA National Championship.