Florida A&M alumni in St. Augustine are angry about this year’s homecoming being back-to-back with the Florida Classic, saying in interviews this week that the cost to attend both might mean they have to miss one.
Alumni in St. Augustine fear they will not be able to attend both the homecoming game in Tallahassee on Saturday and the Florida Classic game in Orlando on Nov. 17 because of the financial burden.
“Why would they do this?” said Stacey Brown, a 1989 FAMU alumna. “I couldn’t understand it. It was getting to me, but nothing could be done.”
Traditionally, Brown attends both homecoming and the Florida Classic, spending between $500 and $700 at each event on gas, vendors, lodging and food. The schedule changes this year means those expenses come one after another, which is tough for Brown, who works for the St. Johns County School Board.
This year, because she has family in Tallahassee, Brown will attend homecoming instead of the Florida Classic to save on hotel costs. However, Willie Earl Sparrow Jr., a 2002 FAMU alumnus, will choose to go to the Classic instead because he believes Orlando is less expensive and more family-oriented.
“I have a family of five,” Sparrow said. “Me and my wife are young professionals. We can’t afford to take off two weeks in a row.”
Even though Brown and Sparrow decided to go to different events, all alumni interviewed agreed that the cost makes it impossible to attend both, which is frustrating for some alumni, including Brown, Sparrow and Dwaine Fisher. Each considers homecoming and the Florida Classic important events to attend annually to reconnect with friends, fraternity brothers, sorority sisters and other classmates.
Fisher, a 1981 FAMU alumnus and member of Alpha Phi Alpha, said he will go the Classic because hotel costs are “ludicrous” in Tallahassee. He and other alumni agreed that the cost to attend homecoming is higher and he will skip it this weekend.
“You have to pay $200 a night,” Fisher said. “Then, they snap on a two-night minimum.”
The FAMU public relations staff did not return two phone calls seeking comment about the schedule change that placed both events back-to-back this year.
Alumni said the absence of the Marching “100” at homecoming and the Florida Classic this year had nothing to do with their decision to skip one event. They said they wanted to show more support for their alma mater but just could not meet the financial burden.
“Both the football team and the college need our support more than ever because of the negative press that we are receiving,” Brown said. “Both games should be packed with sellout crowds. You do not leave a person when they are down. So is the same for FAMU.”