In a striking turn of events, FAMU star bowler restore their scholarships after a semester of confronting their coach and what they describe as an unsupportive athletic department.and her former teammates are hoping to attract public support to
On Nov. 29, Johnson, who has been dedicated to bowling since age 8, sent a text requesting she miss practice on Dec. 4 to complete her final papers like her other teammates had been allowed to do.
August, replied to Johnson by email with her teammates copied, stating, “It is your responsibility to balance your studies along with your school work.”, hired in
Johnson, with a 3.7, GPA, responded to the email with everyone copied, emphasizing the coach’s rule that is boldly stated, “School always comes first.”
On Nov. 30, Coach Howard requested a meeting with Johnson in her office.
On Dec. 1, Johnson left practice early to meet with Howard in her office. Johnson said she had a bad feeling when she noticed Breon Hagans, senior associate athletic director for external relations, in the coach’s office.
Hagans was the person to talk to before reaching the athletic director when Howard implemented rules such as no sitting during tournaments or no more allowing the students’ parents to contact the coach.
Hagans supported the coach’s decisions and said it was her team and she could do what she wanted, according to Johnson.
Johnson was dismissed from the team after being told she was disrespectful and doing too much by copying the entire team on the email. Johnson and her teammates made the decision to leave the team in solidarity. However, Hagans warned anyone who left that they would lose their scholarship if they joined Johnson in the walk-out, according to Johnson.
Anabelle Olay, a recent transfer with 14 years of bowling experience, was the first to join Johnson in the walk-out. Olay lost her scholarship and said she now has to depend on loans. She said she has written to FAMU President Larry Robinson and is appealing with a Title IX complaint.
Transferring isn’t an option for Olay because she would have to sit out a year before being able to participate.
Johnson’sgarnered 47,000 views within a day, and an posted on Wednesday has nearly 78,000 views.
The bowlers’ families attempts at communication were unsuccessful. The athletic department told Olay’s sister. “Capri Howard is the coach,” after being asked for more information on the status of the bowlers.
The FAMU athletics department released an official statement from Athletic Director Tiffani-Dawn Sykes on Jan. 20, supporting Coach Howard’s decision and claiming proper procedures were followed. Johnson and her teammates signed an agreement outlining consequences, with dismissal listed as the last action.
Civil rights attorney Joe Richardson highlighted Johnson’s leadership when she left the team. He said, “There are some people who don’t like to be questioned as it pertains to their authority, and (Howard) might be jealous. She’s definitely insecure.”
FAMU has become home for Johnson and she hopes to remain with her professors and friends, but said she does not want to bowl under Howard.
“We came to FAMU because the coach that scouted us said this is an environment where we will be loved, taken care of, and get our education. Instead, halfway through our eligibility, we were given somebody that values the opposite. FAMU has become home for her.”
Sykes, responding to an email from The Famuan, said she supported Howard.