By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
NCAA Report Very Damning To FAMU’s Athletic Prestige In College Sports
SAN ANTONIO – There is now a very dark cloud hanging over Florida A&M University and it really does pain me that my worse fear for this school became a reality; a four year probation.
The story about whether this school will be facing serious penalties are all to well documented on these pages and I have taken some serious heat on the subject as many from the FAMU family thought I was out to either vilify the school and its program, join the side of the former athletic director or simply try to grandstand and just be another writer who decided to not use facts but a whole bunch of fiction in my commentary. Well much of the ‘fiction’ that many thought I was using as assumptions to facts not yet put into a scientific analysis has come to light as on February 1, 2006, the NCAA came out with their findings and the 21 page document does not paint the school in a very positive light at all.
In a previous story on this subject matter, I had mentioned in the story that for a school of this magnitude should not be in this precarious of a position. In all honesty, I think that HBCU institutions that are up under the NCAA umbrella should take strides in ensuring that their athletic departments are the best the organization has ever seen. What truly befuddles me is the fact that while many have tried to put some blame on former head coach Billy Joe (myself included at one point), nobody has ever addressed the fact that it was indeed the inadequacies of the compliance office that are at the very bottom of the problem with the influx of key administration positions being a mitigating factor.
COMPLIANCE BEGINS WITH DISCIPLINE FOR ALL It may seem like talking about sports compliance and a Black school isn’t a good match but what many fans of Black sports have to realize is that first and foremost, athletics is simply athletics; no matter what the skin tone. The antiquated notion that because a school like FAMU is a “historically black college or university” simply does not apply when we are talking about hundreds of athletes not being certified to participate in sports for the school. There is a process that must be carried out and that process involves having the necessary discipline to carry out the task at hand. And thus when the committee that handed out the punishment this school received, in between the 21-page document could be read “school lacked discipline”.
The compliance office at any NCAA member school has a very heady job. Let’s just look strictly at what FAMU has on their campus. There are fifteen sports at the school and those include the Title nine qualifiers of basketball, swimming, baseball, softball and tennis. It is the job of the compliance officer and his/her staff to make sure that each and every student athlete at that school is deemed certified to partake in competition. What does certification entail? Just about everything. As many of you know, I constantly harp on the fact that anyone playing a college sport is a ‘student’ first and an ‘athlete’ second. The compliance office must ensure that each and every student is in good academic standing and are on a degree progression as mandated by the NCAA bylaws. This office must track these athletes and make sure that they have signed the necessary forms as well. All of that work means that the compliance office must be properly staffed, trained and disciplined enough to ensure that it keeps the school out of disciplinary hearings. Prior to the current staffing that is in FAMU’s office, this was not happening and it was noted in the report.
Discipline to ensure that a school doesn’t go down the path of being put on probation also begins with each sport’s coaching staff. If the compliance office is macro managing the whole department in regards to who is eligible to play and who is not, then each sport’s head coach and coaching staff needs to micro manage the situation. One of the mitigating factors that led to the probation status was the fact that the NCAA committee felt that each sport’s head did not do their job. This is something that plagues a lot of schools because they automatically assume that the compliance office will just ‘fix’ whatever problems may exist. However when we are talking about a small school like FAMU, it is important that the golf coach check with the compliance office to ensure that his golfers are within the NCAA guidelines. It is up to the current football coach to ensure that his team is in good academic standing. The bottom line is that the coaches have to have the discipline to ensure that they do follow up work with this office and at least try to help make their job just a little easier.
Finally, in regards to the discipline aspect, I strongly feel that each and every athlete has a duty to make sure that they are within compliance themselves. While the compliance office may have their weekly meeting with a team and try to avert any potential problems, the athletes who know that they are not following the guidelines are the ones who are costing the institution prestige and puts them into a position where they become the sacrificial lambs being led to the slaughterhouse by many who believe that Black schools simply cannot compete at the next level.
Four years probation is not bad for FAMU. It’s not bad because I personally thought they were going to get hit with the SMU penalty. What the NCAA has seen from this institution was that the school simply did not have control over the situation. The compliance office was severely understaffed and had nobody truly qualified to handle the numerous issues that came about. The good thing is that even though the office may have been below standards, they did do some good work because they averted this school being systematically ‘dismantled’ by the death penalty. However that does not negate the fact that there were individuals in a position that could have help lesson the severity of even this penalty. I believe that had somebody decided to at least take control of even a small part of the athletic department by checking to make sure that their particular sport was in compliance, things could be a lot less.
Maybe with the new administration, the new athletic director and the new compliance officer, FAMU can return to its rightful place of being one of the shining stars in collegiate sports. This school deserves a chance to show that it can learn from its mistakes of the past. What other HBCU schools need to do is follow this school’s program for restoration and ensure that they too will become a pristine school in the area of compliance. By the end of this probation, we will indeed see the Rattlers standing tall; in more ways than one. Good luck FAMU…the task can be accomplished.