Football players at Florida A&M now have the choice of staying on or off campus, as long as they are not a freshman. Players who are awarded an athletic scholarship are assigned to live in the on-campus apartments, Palmetto Phase III.
Azende Rey, a sophomore broadcast journalism major and a running back for the Rattlers, is a resident of Palmetto Phase III. His experience with housing is not one he would brag about.
"I feel like I'm living in a building that is not even done. On move-in day they were still working on renovations, but there are still so many unfinished projects," said Rey. “Every athlete puts a lot of money and time into the sport they play and to not have an on-campus option that is close to our facilities, is not acceptable.”
In the past, some freshman and sophomore football players were allowed to stay in Sampson Residence Hall and were able to enjoy the newly renovated building, Rey was in that number.
As of Aug. 1, 1996, the NCAA eliminated athletic residence halls. Due to this, athletes cannot make up more than 50 percent of a dorm, wing, or floor.
However, universities like Florida State can get away with this due to the size of their residence halls. Champions Hall was built by Seminole Boosters to attract recruits and their parents. FSU's football team occupies 80 out of the 190 bedrooms at the residence hall, which allows them to experience an environment that promotes team chemistry.
Vaughn Wilson, a spokesman for FAMU athletics, admitted that the lack of residence halls and other athletic facilities do influence some athletes when deciding whether or not to call FAMU their home.
"Campuses and schools have to offer so much more not only to attract the athletes but even the general student. They (other institutions) have resources to do the things we just don't have money to do," he said.
Najja Campbell, a junior biology major, agrees that to keep up with other institutions the university might need to accommodate the athletes even in an area as small as improving on-campus living conditions.
"They have to build those dorms to compete with other schools to attract premiere athletes. Athletes are businessmen; the want the best deal for them, and currently, they aren't being presented with the best choice," said Campbell.
There is no doubt that a student-athlete considers several factors when choosing the school of their choice and housing placement does play a part in that decision. The condition of the facilities also has an influence on the athlete’s overall experience at the university.
Wilson still remains confident in their ability to recruit athletes despite the current residence hall options for athletes.
"When the ball goes flat, and you can't play anymore, you've got a degree from a great institution with a great reputation that's accredited, and that means a lot,” Wilson said.
Wilson marvels at how different the living situations are compared to when he was enrolled at FAMU.
"When I played in the mid to late 80s, we all stayed in Young Hall. We stayed there from our freshman to senior year," said Wilson. "As living situations started to enhance with all of these companies bringing in student housing, they became even more attractive to athletes."