Farmer returns to alma mater as first Black female AD

A historic hire

Rickards’ new athletic director Claudette Farmer introduced Bobby McBride as her assistant. Photo by St. Clair Murraine


By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

More than a week had passed after Claudette Farmer knew she would be the new athletic director at Rickards High School.

Still, she couldn’t help feeling a little surreal on the day she was officially introduced.  And, for good reason.

Farmer became the first Black woman to hold an athletic director position in the 162-year history of Leon County Schools.

“It’s still sinking in,” Farmer said, smiling broadly as she tried to downplay the accomplishment a bit. “This is huge, but there are other women in other places doing it.”

Farmer was clear, though, on the kind of legacy she would like to leave at the school that she graduated from more than four decades ago.

“I would like to go down in history and be remembered as the one that came in and helped to make things better for these coaches and students,” Farmer said.
The hire by principal Douglas Cook brings Farmer back to the place where she started a career that included taking the Raiders women’s basketball program to 28-1 mark and taking FAMU’s program to its first women’s NCAA tournament appearance.

One of her biggest accomplishments in her first stint at Rickards was coaching her Rickards team to a No. 6 ranking in the state during the 1989-90 season. That year she was named All-Big Bend Coach of the Year in basketball and volleyball.

At the end of the 1994-95 season when she coached the FAMU women to a 24-6 record, Farmer was named MEAC Coach of the Year.

Her coaching career included stops at Lincoln High and  East Gadsden High School, where she was an assistant.

This time at Rickards, she wants to do even bigger things. While making any immediate coaching change isn’t one of them, she said giving prominent recognition to athletes and other professionals who got  their start at Rickards, will be one of her priorities.

“We have attorneys, doctors; all kinds of people that came out of this school,” she said. “I want our young people and the Southside community to know that it’s not about where you’re coming from; it’s about where you’re going. I grew up in Holton Street projects and I’m not ashamed of where I’ve come from.”
Farmer replaces Earl Hankerson.  Cooks said he wouldn’t comment on his reason for replacing Hankerson, saying only “it’s an in-house situation.”

Having Farmer run the school’s athletic program is the start of a new era, he said.

“Just to have Miss Farmer back here where she graduated, started teaching and coaching and then moving onto the university system is a good feeling,” Cook said. “It feels right that we continue to move our athletic program in the direction that we want to move in.

“It’s a win-win situation for both of us. AD Farmer has a history of bringing people together and  being able to work with others. That’s a great attribute.”

During her official introduction, Farmer introduced Bobby McBride as her assistant, saying he’ll be  “the man behind the scenes doing a lot of things.”

Fund-raising is high on Farmer’s to-do list. She said apart from $50,000 that superintendent of LCS Rocky Hanna plans to give each school’s athletic program, she doesn’t have a budget. However, she has a plan.

“I’m going to be calling on this community; the business community and the alumni,” she said.

While expressing her excitement over upgrades to Rickards’ athletic facilities that are a part of renovations at the school, Farmer said academics will be one of her main focus. She plans to put in place programs to help her athletes get to academic camps.

“I want our kids to go to other part of the country to see something different,” she said. “That’s where kids begin dreaming.

“I want to have them provide wholesome, positive activities for our student-athletes.”