A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
FAMU Wanted To Buy Out Joe
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— A Monday morning meeting with Florida A&M athletic director Joseph Ramsey II was supposed to end speculation concerning Billy Joe’s future as FAMU’s football coach.
Instead it has added more fuel to the fire of controversy surrounding the university’s financially struggling athletic department as both Ramsey and Joe have presented conflicting accounts of what was said during the meeting.
Joe said Monday that Ramsey told him he would not extend his contract, which currently runs through Dec.31, 2006, and that he was putting a spending freeze on Joe’s recruiting budget.
Joe added on Tuesday that Ramsey also told him during the meeting that he would replace him as the head football coach if the money were available to buy out his contract.
“I asked him (Ramsey) why I was not able to get the two- or three-year extension on the contract,” Joe told media Tuesday afternoon. “And he said, ‘Because I don’t support you. You are not the coach I want here.’ I said, ‘OK, I would be willing to step aside and let you bring in the coach you want to bring in if you will politely buy me out.’
“He said, ‘I don’t have the money.’ I said, ‘Well, let’s negotiate. I will be willing to take half, or even less than half, what I have coming to me. Anything that I think is fair. Just make me an offer.”‘
Joe said that offer is now off the table – that he is committed to being the Rattlers’ head coach when they re-enter Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference competition next fall.
“I’m the head football coach here and, until somebody says I’m not the head football coach, I’m going to continue working hard and long to put the best product on the gridiron,” Joe said.
As far as the other financial issues, Ramsey is meeting today with outgoing FAMU President Fred Gainous and Larry Reese, vice president for administrative and financial services. He said he would know then how much money Joe and his staff would be allowed to spend on recruiting.
Ramsey, however, denied telling Joe he wanted to remove him as FAMU’s coach, but did say that if the funds were available he would have bought out his contract. He added that Joe told him he didn’t want to stay at FAMU under current financial restraints.
It would cost FAMU $270,000 to buy out the remaining two years of Joe’s contract, a copy of which the Tallahassee Democrat obtained Tuesday evening.
The contract also includes the following provisions:
• an annual salary of $135,000 plus cost of living increases and annual bonuses based on the team’s performance.
• a $100,000 annual recruiting budget for the football program.
• a contract extension of an additional year if the team wins nine games during the current year.
FAMU administrators, including Gainous and Ramsey, held a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Lee Hall and attempted to clarify some of the claims made by Joe.
Ramsey denied telling Joe that there would not be any money to recruit, but he did say cuts were necessary to deal with the athletic department’s current financial problems, which include a $700,000 deficit.
Joe was not at the press conference, but Ramsey said there were attempts made to try to contact him. Joe, who was out recruiting in the area Tuesday morning, said he was not notified of the press conference.
Ramsey said immediately after the press conference that he didn’t know why Joe’s account of what was said at Monday’s meeting was different from his, but said later that he and Joe had talked again to help clarify the miscommunication.
Ramsey also said he planned to honor the provisions in Joe’s contract and told him only that he needed to hold off on recruiting spending until he went over the athletic department’s budget with Reese today.
“The breakdown is this,” Ramsey said. “I told Billy I have to report all fiscal affairs to my vice president. I understand what is in his contract.”
Reports of Monday’s meeting had some FAMU trustees concerned that Gainous, whose last day is Dec.31, and Ramsey were overstepping their authority in terms of trying to cut Joe’s recruiting budget.
Trustees also stated that neither Gainous nor Ramsey had the authority to extend or buy out Joe’s contract without first consulting the board.
“The athletic director nor the president can do that alone,” said BOT Chairman James Corbin Tuesday.
“Who are they?” he said of those making the changes. “I just don’t get it.”