Reviving the great “Jake Gaither” legacy was a challenge Coach Joe Taylor looked forward to tackling after being named the 15th head football coach of Florida A&M University.
During Jake Gaither’s reign in 1945 he posted a sparkling 9-1 record, the all-time best for a first-year coach.
No coach before or since has managed to win more than six games in their first campaign, until Coach Taylor. With two more games remaining in the season, Saturday, Taylor had a chance at tying the best record for a first-year coach if he could win nine games. The foundation has been set and the steadfast Rattlers are rapidly improving and gaining the attention of everyone, including ESPN.
This weekend FAMU made history by being the first Historically Black College & University to appear on the show ESPN’s College Football Game Day Show.
ESPN’s College Football Game Day Show couldn’t have picked a better time. Supporters of the university feel good about what is going on in terms of leadership of the faculty, the student body, the Marching 100, and of course the football program.
ESPNU found out just how deep the Rattler love spreads throughout Tallahassee when they first covered the FAMU vs. Winston-Salem State University football game on Oct. 9. At this particular Thursday night game, over thousands of fans rallied around Bragg Memorial Stadium in support of the Rattlers.
In the past some viewed Rattler football as a joke. During the first half of every home game the bleachers were filled, but after the band performed and half time concluded, fans would leave.
But since the improvements of the team, people near and far are appreciating the games. Fans seem to desire to stay for all four quarters.
The Rattler spirit is revitalizing. With ESPNU’s bite-sized portion of FAMU from earlier this year, it’s only fitting that ESPN Game Day elected to expand their coverage to FAMU.
The match-up between FAMU and Hampton University was 16 years in the making. Taylor coached the Pirates from 1992 to 2007, leading them to four Black College National titles, eight conference titles and seven NCAA playoff appearances.
FAMU’s 45-24 victory vaulted Taylor past the school’s Hall of Fame legend, Jake Gaither on the all-time Black College coaching wins list. Taylor and Gaither each had 204 career wins in nearly the same number of years-26 for Taylor and 25 for Gaither. Since Saturday’s win Taylor has now surpassed the legend.
The exposure from ESPN’s College Football Game Day show opens doors for increased enrollment and talented recruits. In a weekly media conference Taylor noted, “The kind of exposure that FAMU will get is exactly what football prospects have been told they won’t get if they play at FAMU.”
Who’s laughing now? FAMU is back on the map and never looking back. FAMU now, FAMU forever.
Alicia Mitchell is a senior broadcast journalism from Port St. John, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org