The move back to Division I-AA has caused much debate at the University, but football head coach Billy Joe realizes that he still has a job to do.
“It was not my decision,” Joe said. “As a football coach, I am a soldier in the army. Whatever direction given to me, I will move aggressively in [that] direction. If we were going to continue with the move or delay, that’s the direction I’m going in.”
The primary reason for the delay, according to President Fred Gainous, was the University was not financially ready for such a move. Former Interim Athletics Director J.R.E. Lee III felt otherwise, claiming the budget was sufficient. When Joe was informed that the University was making the move, he was ready to make the necessary changes to have the team prepared.
“When your superiors say you’re ready, you believe them,” Joe said. “But now that we aren’t moving, I think we need three items in order to go. We need commitment from the three governing branches. The Board of Trustees, Athletics Director, and the president must be in sync with each other.”
After Lee resigned from his position, Gainous named Joseph Ramsey II the special assistant to the president for athletics.
“I think Gainous picked the right man,” Joe said. “The scheduling complications are not my responsibility, but Ramsey has been communicating the progress of that with me. He seems willing to make the necessary sacrifices for things to function well.”
“His work ethic shows he’s working religiously on this.”
The decision to stay on the I-AA level has placed limitations on the team’s ability to distribute scholarships to student athletes. Fortunately, for the incoming freshmen football players, the University’s decision to move back to I-AA has not affected them.
“We haven’t heard from any of the recruits or their parents,” Joe said. “The players that we have are signed because they knew in advance the situation we were in.”
“They knew there was a possibility that we would be going back and that didn’t bother them. We did lose some prospects because they figured we would be playing I-AA.”
The move back has the current Rattler players wondering whether or not they’ll be eligible to compete in the I-AA playoffs or even for a MEAC title.
“Now that we are D I-AA we really don’t know if we are going to be eligible to compete in the D I-AA playoffs or compete for a MEAC title,” said quarterback Ben Dougherty, 23, a junior physical education student from Elma, Wash.
“We would love to compete for these titles, but we just have to continue to work hard off the field and be prepared for anything.”
Despite all the negative attention, the delay gives the athletic department time to analyze and make the proper corrections for a successful move.
“I feel that there’s optimism because we have given ourselves the opportunity to not only look at the football program, but we can review the entire athletic department,” said Alvin Hollins, the sports information director.
Joe maintains that he is here to stay and said he doesn’t see himself coaching anywhere else.
“I’m a Famuan till I die,” Joe said. “As long as I’m healthy, I’ll be here. FAMU is an unbelievable place to work and Tallahassee is home forever. If I leave, I won’t coach anywhere else.”