Sports program makes changes

Over the past three years the athletic department has had three different athletic directors.

Over the past two years the athletic department has announced a move to Division 1-A football and an upgraded stadium and also retracted that announcement.

Over the past year the women’s volleyball team has advanced to be among the top 25 squads in the nation.

With all these changes and upgrades, the FAMU athletic department has been fighting an uphill battle. Nevertheless, hope is on the way for this university’s sports program.

“We are in the process of creating a new 5-year strategic plan,” Facilities Coordinator Darsean Johnson said.

“However, with the new athletic director, it hasn’t been finished yet.”

A large concern of the student body and Rattler nation is the status of Bragg Memorial Stadium. Originally , there were initiatives to upgrade the stadium to standards set by the NCAA for Division 1-A status.

The stadium needed to increase its capacity above 25,500 and needed to improve the restrooms, sewage control and infrastructure.

When the “movin’ on up” plan was put on hold, so was the plan to enhance the stadium. As various issues are being considered, the stadium will remain at its current status. The only improvements will be minor adjustments such as painting.

One thing to look forward to though is an expanded field house that will be located on the grounds of the current stadium.

The field house will be approximately 5,000 square feet and will serve all athletes until the new gymnasium is built.

Upon completion of the new gym, the field house will mainly be for just the football and track teams.

The field house will also contain a rehabilitation facility and coaches’ offices. “The original plan was to have this site in place by January, but that is being very optimistic,” Johnson said.

Not all initiatives have been put on the back burner.

Plans have been established, money has been appropriated and the location has been secured for the new gymnasium. This new gym will be located at the corner of Wahnish Way and Orange Avenue.

This will be the new home of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the volleyball team and their locker rooms. It will also serve the physical education department.

Seating nearly 11,000 fans, the new gymnasium will be a large improvement over the 3,350 capacity of Gaither Gymnasium. There are no current plans to change Gaither Gym, if anything it may become a backup indoor practice location.

“Hopefully, the building will have a temporary floor to set up for various events and have two or three practice gyms,” Johnson said.

Facility upgrades are not the only areas included in the strategic plan. Other concerns are marketing and advertisement.

It does no good to improve a building or construct a new one if nobody knows about the sports program and its athletes. Earl Kitchings has increased the awareness of FAMU sports during his five years as director of marketing.

Among the benchmarks captured during his tenure are having Coca-Cola commemorate the 1978 championship, the basketball reunion, and the chair back seat program for basketball games.

“Budget allocations prohibit people from being aware of what’s going on,” Kitchings said. “It’s hard to figure out the best way for reaching students, but I see they read The Famuan a lot so we’re going to use that venue more often.”

Currently, the Marketing Department uses television (The Coaches Show), Radio (Live Broadcast and Commercials), and Newspaper (The Tallahassee Democrat and Capital Outlook).

“There are ideas, but in a transition time, it’s hard to implement them,” Kitchings said.

“More often than not, when things are working you tend to stick with what’s tried and true.”

In order to get some of the ideas started, the department is pursuing dollars from corporations and more student participation.

Student involvement is already a key initiative. There is a student volunteer program called Marketing R.E.P.S. that anyone can join to help promote the sports program.

The Athletic Director Joseph Ramsey was unable to be reached for comment on updates related to the Division 1-A move.

For more updates on the University Athletic Department, students can get involved as volunteers or continue to read The Famuan.

Contact Dominique Drake at