FAMU Alumni Should Be Helping The School; Not The Current Students

By Gregory Moore
Updated: July 26, 2005

famuSAN ANTONIO — I guess with any college or university, hard times would come around sooner or later. Yet for Florida A&M this school is hoping that the current student body can save four sports at the school where the athletic department has gone belly up after a $4 million budget deficit of last year.

Interim athletic director E. Newton Jackson, Jr. went to about 100 students who were not athletes in the early part of July to ask them to absorb a $10 per credit hour increase so that $425,000 to save such sports as tennis, golf and swimming. Jackson’s sales pitch to the students? “You have the opportunity to lead the way for those that should already be leading you.”

The story is out folks and everybody in the country now knows that one of the nation’s most revered black colleges is in dire straits. FAMU is a national topic for some because it is the antithesis of what is good about a big name HBCU institution. Remember it wasn’t that long ago, 1997 to be exact, that Time magazine named it “College of the Year” (read the article at http://www.cnn.com/US/9708/24/top.colleges/).

Exemplary standards is what FAMU has stood for in recent years but in current times this Tallahassee school’s athletic administration is asking help from the wrong body. The current student populous shouldn’t be trying to keep the athletic department afloat. That’s the job of the alumni association. But where are they and why are they allowing their future members to be lambasted by an interim AD who cannot even look the swimmers, golfers and tennis athletes in the face and say, “I’m sorry. My administration has failed you”?


“You are the only hope we have with this right now. I can’t depend on the alumni”. Those words came from Jackson at a meeting in which 100 students were in attendance. Golf coach Marvin Green told the group that if they supported Jackson’s plan, the $400,000 or so raised would take care of the four sports. “With that $400,000, you would never hear from these three coaches ever again, probably until your kids got here”.

I am very curious why nobody went to the alumni association before the department got so in the red with its budget? I feel like Dave Ramsey when he chastises a caller by saying, “Don’t you know how to do a profit and loss statement to make you next month’s budgetary needs”?

I’m not trying to be flippant about this situation because when I wrote the op/ed of “FAMU Could Be The SMU of 1-AA HBCU Schools” for this website, I received a few angry e-mails from alumni members saying I didn’t know what I was talking about and that I had no clue what was really going on. But yet I am going to question the alumni association and ask them that very question they asked me: Do you know what is going on at your school?

One alumni member thoroughly berated me for the article but as I told this individual in an e-mail, I understood the parameters more than what was perceived in the article mentioned above. We are talking about a $4 million debt from last school year folks. This is a loss that is highly unacceptable by any standard no matter what type of school this is.

Schools like FAMU cannot take $4 million dollar hits in a department like that. But for Jackson and some of these coaches to go begging to the current student body is just wrong and they know it. Those students don’t have anything to do with the incompetence and ineptness of an athletic department that tried to make the move to a division where money is king and unless you have a deep alumni association that can help you fund the move, you just don’t do it.

Maybe I’m off base on this and probably somebody from the alumni association can help me understand this whole dichotomy that Jackson is trying to portray to the public. Is the alumni association very active or isn’t it? Did it know of the financial problems plaguing the school months ago or are they like the rest of the outside world in just now getting the bad news. And if that is the case, isn’t this the fault of Jackson and his department for not keeping the alumni association abreast of what is going on?

CURRENT ATHLETES DESERVE BETTER FROM THIS SCHOOL Putting all of that aside, what is this school going to do about the current athletes who are now at a crossroads? How is Dr. Jackson going to help qualm the fears of parents and students alike that if they stick with him, the queasiness will subside and stability will come forth? These kids deserve some answers from this department and they feel like they aren’t getting anything from anybody.

“We didn’t receive any letters of apology, didn’t receive a call or anything,” senior swimmer Talia Hicks told The Sun-Sentinel in a July 24th story. “The only person who’s been saying ‘sorry’ right now is our coach. And it wasn’t him that made this decision.”

You can bet your last dollar that Hicks isn’t the only student athlete who is feeling like this. Athletes like her have a hard decision to make because their college careers are turned upside down now because of mismanagement issues not of their own making. That’s why I question whether Dr. Jackson and others truly understand the ramifications that they are facing. While they are concerned about dealing with 196 violations from their football and basketball programs (amongst others), it is programs like swimming, tennis and golf that are taking the big hits. These student athletes don’t have options because for them to transfer means that they may have to truly be without an education.

“These students don’t come to FAMU just because it’s FAMU,” Green said. “They come to play FAMU tennis, FAMU golf. It’s like being at Florida State to play football.”

Maybe the alumni association can step in and be the saviors of the day. They have to be able to because right now that is the only alternative out there to save EVERY sport at FAMU. It would be a tragedy for student athletes like Talia Hicks and others to become casualties of bygone regime that pillaged coffers of the athletic department. But as I said in my piece about how FAMU could become the next SMU that is the price you pay when you try to run with the big boys at the D-1 level. But it’s not fair that the current student body has to pay the piper for the mistakes not of their own doing.

I’ve said that too in the article. If the alumni is serious about fixing the problem, then it is up to the alumni association to help find the proper solutions, help these athletes who could be literally kicked out because of lack of funding and find somebody who can run the athletic department in a fashion that brings honor to what FAMU has always stood for in the past. It’s the alumni association’s job and duty to now fix their school. The question is: is this association up to the task? From my viewpoint, I think they are and I think they will get the job done; despite how Dr. Jackson feels about them.