Pay to Play: How Much of a Business is FAMU’s Non-Conference Games?

You’re watching a football player in a green and gold uniform continuously rush past the goal line into their end zone. You throw up your hands in frustration when your team’s defense isn’t defending as well as they should. You painfully watch the scoreboard as the opponent’s points steadily increase. You shake your head when you take a look at the final score…University of South Florida 70, FAMU 17.

The score doesn’t reflect the talent that Florida A&M’s football team possesses. There is always going to be a team that works harder and performs better than the next. The question Rattler fans continue to ask is why we play teams that have notably better programs?

According to FAMU’s Athletic Director Derek Horne, FAMU plays schools such as USF and the University of Miami to build relationships with schools in the state. The decision to play a team is a joint agreement by coaches and the athletic directors.

It is important to build relationships, but at the cost of team statistics. Every time it plays schools of this caliber, the opponent is allowed to improve statistics, not FAMU’s.

On average, Florida A&M makes approximately $250,000 to $280,000 during a home game.

FAMU’s Athletic Director Derek Horne said the money the university makes is for a “guarantee game.” The amount is anywhere between $450,000 and $600,000.

This money is used to ensure that a school, FAMU in this case, is able to travel to play the opposing team. The amount of money depends on what school the team plays.

For MEAC games, there are no guarantees.

In the bigger scheme of things, does the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference have any input on decisions like these?

“MEAC football teams are encouraged to play football institutions that will increase the team and conference’s chances for post-season recognition and competition, as well as aid in maximizing the team’s strength of schedule,” said a statement released by the MEAC commissioner’s office.

Running back Darrell Scott is the first USF player to run more than 50 yards in one play. By halftime, quarter back BJ Daniels had thrown for 355 yards. An offensive record of 580 yards was broken shortly after half time. Not to mention, this game was the second highest scoring game of USF’s history. Even a Big East record was broken with the Bulls finishing with a total of 745 yards.

“It’s always a great experience to play as the underdog,” said FAMU tight end Mike Ethridge.

Ethridge said he was able to learn more about his own skill level from the game, and was taken aback by USF scoring 70 points.

What did FAMU’s football program get out of the game? Besides the loss and the individual lessons players learned, they’ve received unwanted humiliation. The goal of playing a game is to win. No team wants to be demolished and be the joke of the sports’ world.

There is no way a fan can sit in the stands and feel proud. With a game like this, a fan from either school would hope the referees would just call the game. Some may have even prayed a “mercy rule” into existence. That good ol’ Rattler pride was missing that Saturday.

FAMU is not alone. Bethune-Cookman played the University Miami this season. Savannah State has played Appalachian State this season. Both HBCUs suffered from terrible defeats.