Florida A&M University’s football team made national news on Friday — for the wrong reason.
One day before Saturday’s season opener at University of North Carolina, it was announced that more than two dozen members of FAMU’s football team were academically ineligible to play in the game. In a statement released Friday, Coach Willie Simmons said that the Rattlers had even considered not playing the game with a depleted roster, but the graduate students and seniors on the team voted to go to Chapel Hill.
It should be noted that FAMU received $450,000 as part of a celebration of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Some students at FAMU said the team’s issues may speak to a bigger problem within FAMU athletics.
Chris Joseph, a fourth-year business student from Atlanta, said he worries that this will be a rocky season for the Rattlers.
“Finding out 20 players can’t play right before the first game seems very chaotic and I hope that these issues are resolved quickly so that the team can continue with a really good season,” Joseph said.
Jordan Abernathy, a second-year CIS student from Atlanta, said he feels that coaches aren’t focused on the academic success of their players.
“The coaches seem to be more focused on the football part of being a student-athlete and not as much on the academic part,” Abernathy said.
President Larry Robinson also released a statement Saturday. “These matters will be a standing agenda item at my weekly Senior Leadership Team meetings. We will see progress,” Robinson said.
Some students expressed concern for the players as they trained over the summer only to find themselves ineligible days before the first game of the season.
Garry Stewart, a fourth-year psychology major from Atlanta, feels the program isn’t keeping up with the necessary paperwork and now it’s affecting players.
“There must be more order and cohesiveness in the program or else there will continue to be issues throughout the whole season,” he said.
Larry Lafrance, a second-year business administration major, is concerned that this situation will leave many players discouraged.
“I feel bad that a lot of them were not able to play,” Lafrance said. “I know they put a lot of hard work in this summer, and they didn’t have the chance to showcase their talents out there nevertheless I’m sure they’ll have a great rest of the season because they have so much potential.”
Despite a depleted roster, FAMU was competitive during the first half with UNC before losing 56-24. It’s not clear how many of the ineligible players will be reinstated before this weekend’s Orange Blossom Classic in Miami Gardens again SWAC rival Jackson State.