Against the Grain II

President Robinson must take control of academics in athletics

Vaughn Wilson

It’s past time for Dr. Larry Robinson to take charge of the academics of athletics.

It’s amazing that I have had to remix this column at least twice over the last decade as I have said the exact same thing and predicted the failures that come along with a NCAA Division-I university that does not take the seriousness of athletics academics and compliance as a priority.  

I can probably save myself time by just changing the date of the last time I wrote on this issue and it will still be relevant today.

It is time for the FAMU administration to do exactly what it told the NCAA it would do in 2019 when FAMU was hit with multiple infractions. FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson must take an active role in delegating the resources to ensure a perpetual system of academic monitoring, advisement and compliance.  After all, the NCAA manual designates the president of each university as the head of athletics operations. 

The events of last Friday must never come close to happening again. It is unfair to Rattler investors, alumni, fans and friends. It is unfair to the student-athletes who FAMU says is a priority. It is also unfair to all of the folks at the University of North Carolina who extended every effort to be gracious hosts and put on a first-class event. With only 3,000 seats remaining by Wednesday prior to the game, the prospect of not playing the game literally had millions of dollars in the balance.

As I have said before, the embarrassment the Rattler nation has to endure each time this cycle reoccurs is unfathomable.  Ridicule, depression, and questions about the competency of our university emerge every single time this happens. WE ARE TIRED OF IT!

 From his office on the fourth floor of Lee Hall, the president can literally see the solution. Less than a mile separates FAMU from FSU, a “Power 5” school that has not had an inkling of academics and compliance in years. It’s time to cross those tracks and take a look at how their system works and scale a system to what can work at FAMU.  Their processes need to be studied in depth.

 Why would I suggest this?  In 2017, while I was working at FAMU, the MEAC required us to be prepared to broadcast live to ESPN3 with about four months notice. As FAMU sports information director, I was tasked with developing Rattler Productions. Former athletic director Milton Overton and I contacted Seminole Productions and asked for a meeting to advise us on how to prepare for such a monumental task. 

The director of Seminole Productions spent three hours with us the first day. I would go back several times as a VIP as the staff all tried to help us be successful. There were times where they would call me with suggestions. The MEAC told us that we were the best in-house production team in the conference. Why try to reinvent the wheel when a regional ESPN broadcast studio was just across the tracks?

 Some will not like me saying this. I could care less.  I don’t like our university and athletics department looking incompetent.

 Why on Earth would Willie Simmons have any desire to sign an extension to this situation? This is the final year of a five year, $1.5 million contract to be head coach of the Rattlers. Some have even uttered that he is at fault. My contention is that if the system is in place, he would not be allowed to do anything wrong. With a concentrated compliance staff, all recruits would have to be cleared before they can actually be offered to come to the university. With a staff monitoring the athletes, class attendance, class grades and progress toward graduation should be given to the coaches of all of FAMU’s athletics teams on a weekly basis. Asking a football or volleyball or softball coach to do it themselves is unrealistic. FAMU must provide this.

 While I don’t desire to add to anyone’s work load, Dr. Maurice Edington, the FAMU Provost, is the ideal person to oversee this process. Working with Dr. Edington, he is meticulous and is adept at solving problems with a methodical process.  A final solution to FAMU Athletics academic and compliance woes does not reside in coaches’ offices…it resides in Lee Hall.

 Finally, the reason why the FAMU Athletics academics and compliance resolve must rest with the university administration is turnover. The turnover rate in FAMU Athletics is high. To be fair, in many athletics departments across the country, it is a revolving door. The university administration and its leaders are much more stable, which would lead to a much more stable oversight process.

 I will continue to do my part.  As a paid member of three chapters of the FAMU National Alumni Association, the Rattler Boosters, the 220 Quarterback Club and a donor to several different FAMU initiatives, I must continue to give. I just expect a better return on investment from my alma mater.

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