Simmons’ wife issues fund-raising challenge between counties

FAMU’s football coach Willie Simmons and his wife Shaia Renee have been busy fund-raising for the school’s athletic department.
Photo courtesy FAMU


By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

Shaia Renee Simmons, the wife of FAMU’s head football coach, was done speaking about a telethon of sorts at a recent meeting of the 220 Quarterback Club. 

She yielded the podium to her husband, then suddenly dashed back to the microphone with a few last words. Essentially, she issued a challenge to FAMU’s alums in Leon County to top a recent drive in her hometown Gadsden County.

“I was going to see if you all are going to show up and beat Gadsden County,” she said. “If we can raise $10,000 in three weeks; Leon County what are you working with.”

For a minute, there was a little light-hearted moaning from her audience. Her response was swift.

“All I’m saying is put your money where your mouth is,” she said jokingly. “We want to see if Leon County can step up.”

Later, she explained that the idea is to get the two areas in a competition that could benefit FAMU’s athletic department financially.

Tommy Mitchell, former president of FAMU’s National Alumni Association who is heading up fund-raising for the boosters, was quick to respond. 

“There should be no reason why we can’t do it,” said Mitchell, also a member of the Leon County chapter of FAMU alumni.

His ultimate goal, said Mitchell, is to raise $1 million between now and 2019.

The challenge by Simmons’  wife is the second of its kind in two years. At that time, Cecka Green issued a challenge to alums to participate in a campaign that she billed as 10 for 10. It raised $100,000.

That approach and the one that Simmons is undertaking by calling on alums to give proves one of his biggest arguments about fund-raising, Mitchell said.

“All we have to do is ask people,” reiterated Mitchell, who has traveled around the state asking for donations. “Give them the purpose for what you are doing. Let them know the status of our athletic department financially and they’ll give.”

The timing couldn’t be better said, coach Simmons. He pointed to Larry Robinson being named permanent president and FAMU alum John Eason returning as athletic director as reasons fund-raising should be easier. His recent hiring as head football coach should also help, he said.

“We want to capitalize on the momentum,” said Simmons, who has been on a state fund-raising tour with Eason. There is a lot of excitement right now. We want to make everyone support us.”

Before leaving the podium, Shaia Renee made an appeal for volunteers to participate in a telephone fund-raising campaign. Of course, she had a good reason to be optimistic that it will be successful in both Gadsden and Leon counties.

“Gadsden County is home to the head coach, Leon County is home to Florida A&M so we believe that all of our Rattlers will put their hearts and their checks into the coffers to help this football team be successful,” she said. “I think Leon County will stand up to the challenge and it would be interesting to see how much they raise.”