With the start of a new football season quickly approaching, the Florida A&M University football team is gearing up to start action in a new conference, the SWAC.
Along with the MEAC rival Bethune-Cookman University, FAMU is moving west to compete against historic HBCUs that are closer to Tallahassee.
“We’re excited to rekindle some of the old rivalries like Grambling and Southern, but also looking forward to playing teams like Jackson State, Alabama State, and Alabama A&M who are also in our division,” FAMU football coach Willie Simmons said.
The Rattlers will play their first game since 2019 on Sunday in Miami Gardens against a fully loaded Jackson State team.
Though Simmons said he doesn’t make score predictions, he assured that his team is ready to get the season started off right.
“We’re definitely going to show up. We’re going to come out with a lot of passion, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of excitement,” he said.
Even in a new conference, Simmons says that he is preaching the same mindset as always.
“I always say, ‘The way you do anything is the way you do everything,’ and we want to continue to create good habits that better us on and off the field.”
This new conference transition hasn’t just been exciting for sports fans, but it has also been thrilling for fans of the bands as well.
“I love that we’re in the SWAC now,” said Kenneth Williams, FAMU alumnus and member of the Marching 100. “I’ll miss being in the MEAC, but when it comes to the bands, outside of The 100 and maybe Bethune, the most notable bands are in the SWAC. FAMU versus Southern, FAMU versus Grambling, FAMU versus Jackson State — these are all great rivalries and neither band can come slipping.”
In an interview with HBCU Gameday, former FAMU Sports Information Director Vaughn Wilson reminisced about the most recent SWAC battle FAMU had with Southern in a 2019 matchup at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
“The atmosphere with both of those bands battling, a tight game down to the last second, traveling alumni from Southern packing out the stands, the FAMU students excited to see a SWAC team there packed out the stand — —it was larger than homecoming,” Wilson said. “A lot of FAMU’s traditional rivals actually are in the SWAC.”
As each week of this new season goes by, there will be a new level of excitement with each opponent. However, even with the new competition, Simmons is making his team commit to the same philosophy — what he calls, “the seven Fs.”
“Fans should expect the team to exhibit the seven Fs: faith, fundamentals, fast play, fighting for four quarters, finish everything we start, having fun, and lastly, playing as a family.”