Despite narrowingly missing out on a SWAC East Division championship in its first year in the league, Florida A&M is postseason bound.
The Rattlers (9-2, 7-1 SWAC) have won its last eight, including breaking a nine-game losing streak to in-state rival Bethune-Cookman with a convincing 46-21 victory in the Florida Classic on Saturday.
Florida A&M learned on Sunday that it will face Southeastern Louisiana next Saturday at 7 p.m. The program will be making its first FCS postseason appearance since 2001.
They are also the first SWAC school to make the field since 1997.
“This is indescribable. This is such a humbling experience,” Florida A&M head coach Willie Simmons told the Tallahassee Democrat after the announcement.
“I am proud of these young men in what they have accomplished. Now that were in, we have to go to work to make sure we leave no doubt.”
The entire football operation had been lobbying for more than a month that the Rattlers should be afforded serious consideration to earn a spot in the 24-team field if it was unable to advance to the conference championship game or appear in the Celebration Bowl.
Also read: Florida A&M hopes convincing Florida Classic win is enough to earn FCS playoff berth
It all started with athletic director Kortne Gosha saying during an interview in October that the program was going to “make a push” to the selection committee.
“We, in all intents and purposes, are going to make a push,” Gosha told D1.ticker.”Our student-athletes deserve the opportunity to play in postseason competition.”
Simmons also participated in trying to court a bid, touting the team’s winning streak and how its only real blemish was a one-point loss to No. 17 Jackson State in the season opener.
“If you can find many teams that have one FCS loss by one-point and FBS loss — are there 23 better than us?” Simmons asked in response to a question about what his pitch would be to the FCS playoff selection committee. “I think our resume speaks for itself. You can talk about our strength of schedule, but that is from people who don’t watch SWAC football.”
There was concern that the Rattlers’ strength of schedule and perceived lack of a signature win would ultimately keep them out of the playoffs. But Florida A&M did finish the season with nine Division I wins and went 4-1 in true road games.
Florida A&M is the first HBCU team to earn an at-large bid since North Carolina A&T in 2016.