Florida A&M President Larry Robinson vowed that the university will prioritize concerns and issues raised by members of the football team after nearly two dozen players were ruled ineligible to compete in the regular season opener at North Carolina.
The Rattlers will be without 20 players, including star linebacker and potential NFL Draft pick Isaiah Land ahead of the team’s game Saturday night in Chapel Hill.
“We have a shared commitment to a culture of accountability and compliance, and as senior administrators and staff we must lead the way,” Robinson said in a statement.
Robinson indicated in the statement that a recently established Athletics Support Committee, which includes administrators and staff associated with the university will look into the issues that concerned the players.
“The issues raised by these young men will get our full time and attention,” said Robinson. “These matters will be a standing agenda item at my weekly Senior Leadership Team meetings. We will see progress.”
The school was notified Thursday that as many as 26 players were declared ineligible to play on Saturday, with some slated to miss several games.
According to a report by the Tallahassee Democrat, FAMU worked with the NCAA throughout the day to get six players cleared to play.
The roster issues were first reported by Rattler Nation — a blog not associated with Florida A&M — that suggested compliance and eligibility matters could place the playing of the game in peril.
On Friday, head coach Willie Simmons told a local TV reporter that the issues involved players’ progress towards a degree, “advisement issues as well that are university-related – what classes athletes are placed in.”
Simmons and the coaching staff left the decision to play up to graduate players and seniors after saying that only seven offensive linemen would make the trip, making competition possibly unsafe. And just before 3 p.m. Friday, it was reported that the team would be traveling to North Carolina after the remaining players discussed the situation with university officials.
Though the game was now on, Simmons explained that many players were frustrated and drew ire over the school’s handling of the NCAA certification process.
“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 said.
FAMU reportedly only employs one full-time compliance officer for the entire athletic department.
As of Saturday morning, it is unclear how long many of the 20 ineligible players will be out following the North Carolina game, though sources indicated to HBCU Sports that the school is working to get several players cleared for next week’s Orange Blossom Classic in Miami versus Jackson State.
“And as for today, our team is here. Our coaches and staff are here. We will compete and do our best to win,” said Robinson. “Once again, I am thankful for all of the coaches, staff, and student-athletes who played a role in making this happen.”
Read Robinson’s full statement below: