Coaching priorities set

Colzie III wants to build a championship team at FAMU

James Colzie III was officially introduced Monday as the new head football coach at FAMU.
FAMU photo/Glenn Beil
Members of the Marching 100 celebrated James Colzie III as FAMU’s new head football coach.
FAMU photo/Glenn Beil

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

In addition to getting a solid recruiting class on National Signing Day, James Colzie III is very clear about what else will get urgent attention.

Colzie was introduced as the new head coach of FAMU’s football team Monday afternoon on Ken Riley Field inside Bragg Stadium. His hire comes a month after Willie Simmons resigned to take a running backs coach position at Duke.

Since Simmons’ departure, the program has been sideswiped a little bit, but nothing that Colzie doesn’t believe he can’t fix. A handful of players left and some position coaches might be leaving.

“I want to keep every single one of them, but I also know that you want to do what’s best for your family,” Colzie said of his staff. “I get that.”

Apart from that, Colzie was bubbling with optimism that he’ll have any lost player replaced before spring practice begins. Those who are in the program know what the three main goals are and the new ones will hear them, too.

As Colzie outlined them, the three must-do are beating Bethune-Cookman University in the annual Florida Classic, win the SWAC championship and win the Celebration Bowl to repeat as the HBCU champion.

“We just can’t get complacent,” Colzie said. “We have to understand that every team that we play, we are going to get their best. You can’t get that mentality once the season starts. That mentality has to start right now and continue while we are in the off-season.”

Colzie was introduced by athletic director Tifanni-Dawn Sykes, who got some push back when it appeared she wasn’t going to hire from Simmons’ staff. However, Colzie emerged from a field of 45 applicants after FAMU’s Board of Trustees voted to form a search committee to work with a search firm.

Sykes cited the attributes that led to Colzie being hired, including being one who “understands the importance of higher education.”

Monday’s introduction was festive, with members of the Marching playing. Colzie started his remarks in front of about 100 fans by asking the band to play a few bars of “Hey, let’s go.”

Colzie came to FAMU from St. Mary’s University in Canada where he held his first head-coaching job. He worked his first season under Simmons as a defensive coach and was named assistant head coach to start last season.

Colzie won two championships in Canada and was an assistant at Valdosta State in 2007 when the Blazers won the Division II championship. As a players, Colzie played on FSU’s national championship team in 1993.

Throughout the search for a coach, multiple players who helped the program win a national championship in December, pleaded for Colzie to be hired. Several of them showed up on Monday, looking relieved.

“This is definitely a day of relief,” said tight end Jeremiah Pruitt. “I was just talking to a lot of my teammates (and) a lot of our prayers have been answered. We just didn’t want to turn the whole program around. We just wanted to keep it going.”

Stakeholders, who had been calling for an internal hire, also expressed joy that Colzie was the choice.

“I was concerned,” said Selvin Cobb, president of the Rattler Boosters. “I was more concerned that they may have passed over someone to get someone else.”

Tommy Mitchell, also a member of the Boosters, said now that a coach has been hired, the focus has to be on fund-raising to support the team for another successful season.

“Right now we should be talking about what alumni need to do to help this program,” said Mitchell, estimating that $100 annual from 80,000 alumni would be sufficient. “The university cannot fund athletics. We’ve got to do it.”

Before leaving the podium that was set up on the field, Colzie ran off the names of former FAMU coaches Jake Gaither, Billie Joe, Ken Riley and Simmons as ones he wants to emulate.

“Thanks for setting the standard,” he said. “I will do my very best to keep that standard.

“It’s going to be about winning, but also be about the right culture. I want to make sure FAMU is continuing to build better men.”

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