John Robert Edward “Bobby” Lee III, businessman and former coach and athletic administrator, was appointed athletic director. President Fred Gainous fired former athletic director Ken Riley on Nov. 26.
The 1959 graduate of FAMU recently discussed his plans and goals for the athletic department with The Famuan.
What are your immediate goals for the athletic program?
First of all, I am trying to put a name with a face. I want to familiarize myself with all the staff, personnel, coaches and everybody that is part of this program.
What are your long-term goals for the athletic program?
They are in line with the president’s. He charged me with some that include a facility upgrade, an assessment of personnel and to enhance the booster operations so we might be able to depend on that area a lot more than we have in the past. I also want to work on the overall morale of the department.
Why did you accept the position of interim athletic director at FAMU?
I felt that FAMU had a tremendous amount of potential. And I realized and recognized that President Gainous felt the same way.
To comply with Title IX (sports’ equal opportunity law), are there any sports that you are thinking about adding and/or subtracting?
We are at a good point right now as far as overall sports. We have 18 men’s and women’s athletic programs and we have a championship that takes place in each and every one of them.
What we’d like to do is put more emphasis on the so-called Olympic, nonrevenue sports. Those are the sports that you participate in once you reach a certain age, so we feel (these sports) are very important to the overall operations and the health and welfare of our student athletes.
What are your plans to revitalize the current facilities?
First, we are going to try to do something for the football field.
We have aspirations of building a new (indoor) facility on the corner of Wahnish Way and Osceola Street that would encompass several of the operations here athletically.
The weight room area is very important to all athletes, especially the football players and basketball players, our primary income producers. So that’s an area that we certainly want to enhance with better equipment and an expansion of the area we are already in.
What is your outlook on the ailing financial situation that the athletic department finds itself currently in?
My background is in business, so we will make the numbers work. Every day we stay here the picture will continue to get brighter. We are going to prosper and have the kind of representation that will continually make all of the FAMU alumni, fans and people that are interested in our program proud.
Is there a new marketing strategy that you are going to implement or are you looking to push along the new and rejuvaneted marketing department?
That is an area that we have spent a lot of time in and we will continue to spend a lot of time in because that is our lifeblood.
Also, this year we had five classics, more than we’ve ever had before. We should take advantage of those opportunities and put ourselves on display in areas of the country that very few people have ever had an opportunity to see the Rattlers perform.
We are going to be all over the place next year.
Next year we will have over a half of a million people watching FAMU football games and that’s a lot of people. In the eyes of a broadcaster like myself, we need to put dollar sign on that because it’s worth a lot.
Your grandfather and father both left permanent marks on this university (his grandfather is said to have conjured up the term Rattlers for FAMU’s nickname and his father founded the Orange Blossom Classic, one that the football team still plays in annually against South Carolina State). How are you going to leave a permanent mark on this university?
We hope to bring some new things to the program and do some things that haven’t necessarily been done before. That’s what it is all about. And we (hope to go) to a different level in a relatively short period of time.
We want to be the kind of program that will enhance every aspect of the university.