Six games set

Fans may be relieved to know not all of the Rattlers’ 2004 opponents are ranked in Division I-A’s Top 25.

J.R.E. Lee III, interim athletic director, has reached an agreement in principle for the Rattlers to play a home-and-home series with Arkansas State and Toledo starting next year. The plan is for both schools to travel to Tallahassee in 2004, with FAMU making a return trip the following season.

“We’re focused on trying to get this 2004 schedule complete as soon as possible,” Lee said. “We want to have some competitive games for our team and also games that will create fan interest.”

With the addition of Arkansas State and Toledo, FAMU now has six teams on its 2004 schedule. The Rattlers will open the 2004 regular season Sept. 4 on the road against Illinois, followed by a trip to Oklahoma Sept. 11.

The school will also play Division I-AA Tennessee State and intra-state rival Bethune-Cookman College. These games were scheduled to keep two of the school’s most profitable classic games intact.

A date has not been set for either the Arkansas State or Toledo games.

FAMU is also in negotiations with the Black Coaches Association to participate in the annual BCA Classic that takes place at the beginning of the year. Lee and several other FAMU officials attended the 2003 game between Kansas State and California and met with BCA officials to discuss FAMU’s participation in next year’s game.

“Those discussions are going well,” Lee said. “Of course nothing is definite, but I feel confident that we will be playing in that game next year.”

During the summer, Lee said he wanted to have schedules made for football at least five years in advance. He acknowledges that in order for that to happen FAMU would need to be in a conference. He also said he wants to spend as little time as a Division I-A independent as possible, ideally no more than two years.

“We know that getting into a conference would make it a lot easier on ourselves to come up with a schedule every year,” said assistant athletic director Alvin Hollins.

The Rattlers are the I-A institution No. 118 in the NCAA and the first HBCU. FAMU was placed on a two-year probationary period starting this year, during which time they must meet all NCAA requirements to be a I-A school.

Among those requirements are adding 20 more football scholarships to the 65 it currently distributes. FAMU must also average at least 15,000 people per home game, and must schedule at least five home games, or four at home and one at a neutral site. Starting next year, there cannot be more than two I-AA opponents on the schedule.

FAMU is 1-7 all-time against I-A opponents. In recent years the team fell to Miami (63-17), Troy State (24-7) and Florida (63-3).

Kevin Fair can be reached at