Commencement competes with bowl game

Photo courtesy: commencement webpage

As the week of Dec. 10-16 approaches, the atmosphere at Florida A&M University is electric with anticipation. Graduating seniors of the Class of 2023 are gearing up for their fall commencement ceremony scheduled for Dec. 15. However, this excitement is somewhat overshadowed by the stellar performance of the FAMU football team, the SWAC champions, set to face Howard University in the 2023 Cricket Celebration Bowl at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 16.

The swift shift of attention from the graduation spotlight to the university’s participation in the 2023 MEAC vs. SWAC showdown has left many students pondering their priorities and the impact on their special day.

Kalei Nash, a broadcast journalism graduating senior, said she has mixed feelings.

“I envisioned that I was going to have a very traditional graduation, where everyone comes in town and celebrates me. But now I feel like I’m sharing my spotlight and one of the most important times of my life with a football game,” she said.

Nash’s sentiments echo those of several graduating seniors who expected a more conventional and individualized celebration of their achievements. The clash between the commencement ceremony and the highly anticipated football game has prompted some students to question whether the weekend’s festivities are directed more toward their accomplishments or the football team’s triumph.

On the other hand, graduating business administration senior Bryce Brown sees the bigger picture and welcomes the idea of sharing the excitement with the football team. Brown acknowledges the importance of graduation but believes that the 2023 Celebration Bowl is equally significant.

“I think graduation is still important, and I believe that the university believes it’s important as well, but I know that this [Celebration Bowl] is just as important,” said Brown. “Football has been such a big part of my experience at FAMU, and I know that it is such a big part of our culture as well.”

For some, however, the game of prioritization becomes more complex. FAMU Athletics Director Tiffani-Dawn Sykes told The Famuan that the department explored various options for student-athletes scheduled to graduate and walk the stage the day before the game. The university offered the opportunity to host an off-site commencement in Atlanta and even provide round-trip transportation to and from the on-campus ceremony on Friday, Dec. 15. However, the graduating players were firm in deciding to forgo the traditional commencement experience for the complete Celebration Bowl encounter.

“They were offered the opportunity for us to host an off-site commencement in Atlanta. We also offered them the opportunity for them to come up with the team and provide round-trip transportation on Friday, to and from commencement,” Sykes said. “However, they wanted to be present for the full bowl experience and decided to participate in spring [2024] commencement.”

As the university community readies itself for a week filled with both academic and athletic celebrations, FAMU seniors grapple with a unique blend of emotions, navigating the intersection of personal achievements and the collective victory of their championship-winning football team. The upcoming week at FAMU promises to be memorable, marked by both the traditional cap and gown affair and the thunderous roar of Rattler nation as the football team seeks glory on the field.