Just a day before the official start of the college football season, the status of one game remained unknown.
The Week 0 matchup between Florida A&M and North Carolina — scheduled to be played Saturday night — is now being played following a report that suggested FAMU would not be making the trip to Chapel Hill because of player eligibility issues.
Rattler Nation — a blog not associated with Florida A&M — reported that several players would be ineligible to play at UNC, including several unnamed starters. The blog, which posted the account on Twitter, said other players allegedly refused to play.
Alison Posey, a reporter with ABC 27 in Tallahassee, was told by head coach Willie Simmons Friday afternoon that “there are twenty players that are ineligible, be it to academics or transfer eligibility.”
Simmons told Posey that “only seven offensive linemen that can travel,” which is not enough to safely play a football game.
Simmons said the issues involved players’ progress towards a degree, “advisement issues as well that are university-related – what classes athletes are placed in.”
The number of players who are considered ineligible has not been confirmed by the school, though some reports range as high as 20, including several players who are members of the preseason All-SWAC team. It is also unclear how long many of the players will be unable to compete.
He and the coaching staff left the decision to play up to the players. And just before 3 p.m. EST, it was reported that the team would be traveling to North Carolina.
UNC is paying FAMU a $450,000 guarantee as part of the competitive agreement.
“The responsibility ultimately falls on the student-athlete, but without support, it is really, really hard to juggle all they have to juggle and still maintain satisfactory academic progress and still compete at the highest level,”
Simmons told ABC 27 in reference to a program that only has one full-time compliance official for the entire athletic department.
In June, The NCAA disclosed its first Academic Progress Rate which outlined the football team fell below the 930 threshold — the lowest mark among all Division I programs.
The school is also without a permanent athletic director after the school parted ways with Kortne Gosha in April.
In a statement obtained by ESPN Simmons said: “After final certification of our entire team late last night, we were made aware that 7 of our Offensive Lineman were deemed ineligible. When you consider that 3 others are nursing injuries, that only leaves us with seven healthy eligible offensive linemen. The players didn’t feel comfortable playing under those conditions and they are all understandably frustrated with many of our internal processes in the certification process, so they decided not to play.”
Simmons went on to say that “after a few more discussions with university leadership, including the president of the university, the players ultimately decided to play the game. I support these young men 100% in whatever they decide and I’m extremely proud of them for advocating for themselves!”