With the football season in motion, Florida A&M is standing 4-3 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, head coach Joe Taylor has put his prime initiative of revamping Bragg Memorial Stadium’s football field on pause until the season is over.
Artificial turf was initially aimed at being installed by the Oct. 2 game against South Carolina State, but lack of funds from the Got Turf campaign postponed those plans.
However, Taylor is optimistic that the new field will be installed over the summer and in place for the 2011 football season.
University Relations confirmed the amount needed is $750,000, and as of August 5, approximately $50,000 had been raised.
Since Got Turf is still in the early stages of collecting funds, Taylor said it has not yet been set in stone the specific kind of turf the university will get.
“We’re just trying to raise the money,” he said. “A lot of companies have contacted us, but we’re not to that point yet.”
Astro, Super and Field are the main types of artificial turf. Taylor said the artificial turf with less sand and more rubber is the one the football team is aiming to get.
Field Turf is used in the majority of stadiums now according to fieldturf.com.
It is composed of polymers, longer fibers, shock pads and rubber crumb.
In others words, it carries more products that replicate the look as well as the feel of real grass, making it much safer for athletes than the original AstroTurf.
Whether or not Field Turf lowers injuries or increases them is still in the midst of debate.
A survey conducted in 2008 by the NFL Players Association showed that out of 1,565 NFL players, 84.4 percent believed Field Turf causes more injuries than grass surface while 91 percent said it’s more likely to cause more soreness and fatigue.
FAMU’s lead running back Philip Sylvester admitted the field is hotter to play on then natural grass, but he runs faster and doesn’t think injuries should play a factor against Field Turf.
“Injuries are going to happen regardless of whether athletes play on natural grass or artificial turf. It’s just apart of the game,” he said.
The university’s neighbor, Florida State, hasn’t swapped its natural grass out for artificial turf at Doak Campbell Stadium, and doesn’t plan to anytime soon according to Chuck Walsh, FSU’s director of sports information, who said they just had their field redone.
“More teams are going away from it,” Walsh said.
However FAMU’s MEAC opponents, South Carolina State, Morgan, Howard and Bethune-Cookman already have Field Turf, which is one of the reasons Taylor wants to go in that direction as well.
“Everybody I know has it, like Buddy Pough from South Carolina State. He said out of all the things he’s done since he’s been there, that was the single most thing that excelled his program to another level,” Taylor said.
He added that he wants his players to be on the same physical playing field as their opponents, and need to have the experience of playing on it at their home field.
Prospective players showcasing their talents at Pro Day to professional scouts won’t have to worry about the condition of the field from weather or other external factors off-setting their performance.
“On our particular day, it had been raining,” recalled Taylor about last year’s Pro Day. “So the players were slipping a little bit as they attempted to run drills.”
Supporters of this initiative believe the artificial turf will also be beneficial for the university.
“From an economic standpoint for the school, there won’t be any maintenance to it at all once it is laid. Over four or five years it will pay for itself,” Taylor said.
Compared to grass, which has to be routinely cut, watered and seeded, artificial turf doesn’t require any of that.
Bragg Stadium serves as a multipurpose facility. Taylor said the new field will be able to sustain all of the foot traffic from the Marching 100 and high school teams that play on it.
“It makes sense. Everybody can use it and the surface itself will always still be there. And we don’t have to worry about slippery mud,” Taylor added.
Besides lower maintenance cost, other pros include the turf being pesticide free, increased playability, less water usage and recruitment.
Taylor explained replacing the field will also be a recruiting mechanism to enhance the number of prospective players.
“I have actually lost players to other programs because they had turf,” he added.
During post-season FAMU’s football coach traveled the country talking to alumni groups about the Got Turf campaign.
University Relations said Vice President Carla Willis, who is leading the fundraising efforts, has been working closely with the coach to carry out the project.
For more information about donating to the Got Turf campaign for the acquisition and installation of the new field, contributions can be sent to the FAMU Foundation. Or go online to www.famu.edu and click “Got Turf?”