When students think of sports at an HBCU, it seems that what comes to mind is an elite club rather than a cohesive community. For some reason, HBCU sports culture has become more centered around basketball and football, even though Florida A&M is home to several prominent and far more successful programs in the D-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
This is not to take away from the students or the players, and not to say that students are not supporting our fellow Rattlers. However, the basketball and football programs are a step ahead in not only fan attendance, but in the opportunities they have as a program.
A prime example is seen every Saturday at kick-off through the football teams $800,000 investment of AstroTurf at Bragg Memorial Stadium. It is still understandable to push and advertise your groups that bring in the most revenue and fan attendance, but why not promote your programs that have been champions in recent years such as the cross country team, or the softball team?
Last year FAMU continued their trend of outstanding attendance after ranking as the number one HBCU for fan attendance with an average population of 19,048 at home football games.
But, as students, why can’t we support the baseball, cross country and softball teams the same way we come out for our powerhouse sports? This issue is deeper rooted and stems more so from a cultural standpoint.
In professional basketball and football, African American players make up about 70 percent of the population of the entire league. Whereas in Major League Baseball, for the first time since 2012 they are happy to have their percentage of black players rise to a mere 8.4 percent.
Considering that FAMU is an HBCU, it is not a surprise that our students would be more interested in the sports that produce more professional athletes that look like us. As well as the games that we are more accustomed to watching.
Students do not support these teams because in their lives they have probably only been exposed to football, basketball, and maybe baseball or track. In the black community, we overlook some of the sports that need a larger African American representation, which in turn would inspire others to participate.
“I feel we are one of the better teams our school has to offer, many people just don’t know about us,” said Octavien Moyer, Infielder for the FAMU baseball team.
Several students were asked how much they knew about FAMU’s other sports, and some did not even know how well rounded FAMU is in athletics. Most of the student responses when asked if they attended other sporting events besides football or when informed of how well the cross-country team was doing this season they all had similar responses.
“No I have not, and that’s only because I really don’t hear much about the other sports,” said RaNya Bellamy, Junior Business Administration student.
What Bellamy said goes hand in hand with how Moyer feels about some lack of fan attendance and students lack information for some of the smaller programs on campus.
“Our field is secluded from our campus; many people don’t know where it's even at. Our basketball and football gymnasium are in the center of campus, so everyone knows where these sporting events are at,” said Moyer.
Having the same opportunities as some of the bigger programs would help out these teams. Which should not be a hard task considering the number of championships that the groups some know little about are bringing to this University.
Our FAMU softball team currently holds the record for most MEAC championships with 13. Some softball players are still wondering when they are going to get the same treatment as our other teams for their continued winning and dedication.
Moyer and other players are not mad at athletics in any way; they are actually grateful for the opportunities and happy for the fans that come and support them.
These teams will continue to fight to have their voices heard while continuing to represent the university with class. They may not get the same recognition as the larger sports anytime soon, but they work just as hard and are continuing to better themselves as students and athletes.