This time FAMU did things right

Vaughn Wilson

In a methodical and deliberate matter, Florida A&M University has moved from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) to the SouthWestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).  The move was executed primarily by Vice President and Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha.  Deputy Athletics Director Keith McCluney and Associate Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator Karai Lockley also played prominent roles in the execution of the transition.

Rattler fans, trustees and university administrators listened with precaution as Gosha dissected the inner workings of the move with the ammunition of two independent studies from consultants that suggested FAMU consider the SWAC for financial reasons.

The initial skepticism from FAMU fans is well-deserved.  An ambitious move in 2003 crippled the program and sent it spiraling into a financial abyss.

Former FAMU Director of Athletics Robert Lee Jr. and Board of Trustees Chair Jim Corbin pushed through a move from NCAA Division IA to Division I, immediately deeming head football coach Billy Joe’s stacked roster worthless.  The quick move rendered nearly every transfer ineligible, made the program ineligible for the IA playoffs and caused a multi-million-dollar financial deficit that it took the department over a decade to recover from.

One of those players that had transferred in to FAMU from Clemson was current head coach Willie Simmons.  He would have to transfer again to the Citadel to complete his career.

The wounds from the move left a sour taste in the mouths of fans who felt they had no choice in the move, but were sold a bag of good that did not pan out.  Eventually FAMU would return to Division IA (now FCS) but spend years on probation for issues that resulted from the move.

That catastrophe also caused the resignation of then president Fred Gainous, Ph.D.

Now, 17 years later, a new bright shiny plan emerged.  FAMU would switch conferences to reduce the extensive travel costs of competing in the MEAC and to enjoy reduced contractual obligations, allowing for greater financial opportunities.

Unlike the move in 2003, this one was well planned and executed.  From FAMU president Larry Robinson, Ph.D. to FAMU Board of Trustees Chairman Kelvin Lawson and FAMU National Alumni Association President Gregory Clark, everyone was on board with this decision.  In addition, the consensus extended all the way to the new conference.  In all, four separate votes were taken in support of this decision, all with unanimous outcomes. The FAMU Board of Trustees Committee on Athletics (5-0), The FAMU Board of Trustees (11-0), the SWAC Directors of Athletics (10-0) and SWAC Presidents and Chancellors (10-0) all agreed that this was a solid move for all parties.  Without a dissenting vote to be found, it became official that FAMU would withdraw from the MEAC and begin the transition to the SWAC.

Fans were never an issue.  For years the majority of the FAMU fan base has talked about joining the SWAC.  While not a slight on the MEAC, the traditional rivalries in the SWAC are generations old.  With the starvation of sports attributed to Covid-19, this story drew considerable attention on social media, resulting in one of the top Twitter topics of the week.  Yeah, this is sorta a big deal.  And from the looks of it, it was done right.