From the windows of the Rattler Booster club offices on 1338 S. Bronough St., you can’t even see the Rattler football field. But Executive Director Rodney Roberts has a vision that goes for miles.
In an unassuming bedroom-turned-office on the second story of a former duplex, Roberts runs the headquarters of what will be a big key to FAMU’s transition into I-A football.
The last year and a half has been an ambitious and often uncertain one for FAMU football. The proposal in April 2003 to move from Division I-AA to I-A football was rapidly followed by a formal application to the NCAA in early July of the same year. For the remainder of the summer and the following season, the school, team and coaches made preparations with this in mind.
When President Fred Gainous suggested that the board of trustees withdraw its application to the NCAA, the main factor he cited was a lack of financial resources.
The decision in February to delay the jump to I-A sent many running back to the drawing board.
Head coach Billy Joe recruited with the move in mind. But when plans were changed, NCAA rules deemed some of his players ineligible.
” I lost 18 players as a result of that,” he said.
One of the major components of the new plan is the booster club.
Roberts said the boosters want to be in whatever position they can to help.
For that very reason, Athletic Director Joe Ramsey moved Roberts from his office in the athletic department and into a new role with the booster club. There, the 1961 alumnus will attempt to take the alumni association to new heights.
“One hundred percent of my energies will be devoted to helping the boosters,” Roberts said.
And to that end, he is developing a plan to submit to the boosters’ board of directors that will make the booster club program nationwide. He is talking to other booster programs to find out how they’re structured and to see what advice they have to offer.
“We want to bring as many members into the organization as we possibly can,” he said.
He’ll probably need them.
President Gainous said the school needs to devote more financial resources to academic programs. Meanwhile, students’ tuition is probably stretched too thin to pay more athletic fees.
On the other end of the spectrum is Joe, who is more concerned with X’s and O’s than 1’s and 0’s.
The untimely decision left him with a daunting schedule, but he credits Ramsey with doing an outstanding job of assembling an eleven game season.
“We have a very difficult schedule,” he said. “Most media folks say it’s the most difficult schedule in the history of the NCAA for a division I-AA school.”
The team faces six division I-A teams, two of which are provisional. They are not eligible for a national championship or a MEAC championship.
Although, motivating the guys is going to be a little bit tougher, Coach Joe said, “We do have some players that are anxious to play football.”
The Rattlers first try at division I-A seems to have suffered from a rush to apply and lack of planning. The boosters want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“I think that this schedule is one of the best opportunities we will ever have. It’s going to give us, if nothing else, the experience of playing big time, because that’s where we want to go.”
As far as another attempt at I-A, Roberts said, “I think it’s something that should be done-can be done. Get ready. We’re coming.”
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