The weather was fair, and there were fans at Bragg Memorial Stadium Saturday.
However, the stereotypical fair-weather fans of Florida A&M University and its athletic programs stayed at home for the Rattlers’ first home football game of the 2004 season.
Amid the division of supporters and detractors for current University President Fred Gainous, many fans could be heard questioning the direction the University is heading from the stands.
While there may have been indecision in the stands, there was not any on the field as the only direction the Rattler football team was headed was toward the end zone. Yet, no matter how skeptical fans were Saturday night, they all agreed on one thing: athletic events, football games in particular, have helped in attempts to make One FAMU.
“Home games promote school spirit and being proud of the school,” said Bethany Jones, 18, a freshman biological agricultural systems engineering student from Houston. “You see what’s happening everyone is having a good time out here.”
Bucking a tradition at home games, a majority of the 11,098 in attendance stayed for the second half that turned out to be a formality as FAMU scored three touchdowns to finish off a dominated Virginia Union University team, 35-10.
“I don’t know if they should try and oust him (Gainous), but they (the Board of Trustees) should try and do what’s best for the university,” said FAMU alumnus and current mayor of Quincy, Derrick Elias.
Elias said he was unsure of all the transgressions of the Gainous Administration but he will support the University regardless of what happens.
“Everyone I know is dedicated to this university,” said Minnie McNeil, a 24-year residentof Tallahassee. “I thought the way it was done (the BOT’s vote to terminate Gainous’ contract at year’s end) stunk.”
McNeil said while none of her friends or friends of her family members attended FAMU have expressed any ill will toward the University’s academic administration, they have stated their disappointment with the FAMU’s athletic department.
“I think it (FAMU’s athletic violations) was magnified because we tried to move (to Division I-A) and they (the MEAC) got us for everything,” he said
In addition to McNeil’s displeasure with the athletic department for its failed move to Division I-A football, Jones said that people she has talked to are less than thrilled with the athletic department because the football team is playing six full-fledged or provisional I-A schools instead of its traditional black college opponents.
Yet, with all the displeasure in various aspects of the University the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. At one point in the second half, the Marching “100” had the student section of Bragg Memorial Stadium on its feet for 15 consecutive minutes.
When speaking about student support of FAMU, DeAndre Etherly, president of the Strike Team said “We (the Strike Team) have to continue to lead by example. If we continue to lead, people will follow.”
Although the Strike Team is comprised solely of students, Etherly, 22, a senior industrial engineering student from Dallas, said he would like to someday either include alumni in the organization or have an alumni chapter.
“School spirit is a priority, and everyone should show their love for FAMU,” Etherly said.
Will brown is a junior broadcast journalism student from Rockledge. Contact him at Wwbrown19@yahoo.com.