Unfair, entitled and disappointing are all words used by Florida A&M University students to capture reactions to the stance taken by FAMU’s football team.
On Friday, social media was taken by storm when multiple sources reported 20 football players were ineligible to play against the North Carolina Tar Heels, leaving the team with only seven offensive linemen to compete.
Unsettled by the negative comments, the story unfolded as the team took a stand. The players penned their grievances in a seven-page letter signed by every member of the team, addressing upper administration and President Larry Robinson.
Concerns in the letter addressed issues regarding financial aid, academic support and compliance, summer school, and feelings of under-appreciation and underrepresentation.
“…the 2022 Rattler Football Team, would like to address several issues that are having an adverse effect on our lives, our futures, and the student-athlete experience at FAMU,” the letter said.
Isaiah Land, an All-American and the 2021 Buck Buchanan, Defensive Player of the Year, was featured in the letter. Land claimed to be “mis-advised” during the summer semester when instructed to take an inadequate number of credit hours, leaving him unable to qualify for academic eligibility.
The team kneeled during the “Florida Song” and the “FAMU Alma Mater” after the UNC game and stated they “will continue to do so until significant changes are made.”
FAMU communications responded to the grievances with a letter addressing the compliance concerns. The letter ensured that FAMU has complied with the NCAA directive, stating “13 out of 14 sports programs” met the Academic Progress Rate (APR) per the November 2021 report.
President Robinson met with the football team Tuesday, followed by a press conference where he said he is “committed to their success.”
“I think this was a very understanding dialogue, one of the things I’m most appreciative of is the professional manner in which these young men handled themselves,” Robinson said.
He said he is committed to adding six or more compliance employees and two additional academic advisers by the end of the fall semester. He also said the university would provide four tickets per player instead of two to ensure families have the opportunity to support their sons.
Robinson was unable to comment on which players are cleared, but assured the compliance team is working diligently to get names submitted to the NCAA to regain eligibility.
Though many applaud the student-athletes for advocating for themselves, other athletic
programs are left wondering why other athletes haven’t received the same treatment.
Other athletic programs, including women’s sports, feel like the stepchildren of FAMU athletics. They have said their issues are often overlooked and swept under the rug.
Sedric Norris, a fourth-year track athlete, said she is discouraged while competing for the university and not being as appreciated as football players.
“The track team, baseball team, softball team have had other issues, talked about them, brought them to people’s attention and they still moved very slowly,” Norris said. “It really shows where their spirit is and what they truly care about when it comes to certain sports.”
As for Sunday’s match-up against Jackson State University, some players are still awaiting their fate with the possibility of missing one-third of the season.
FAMU football players have declined to comment as they are not permitted to speak with the media at this time.