The symbolic dark cloud that had cast a menacing and grim shadow over the Florida A&M football program in recent weeks diminished on Monday when James Colzie III officially took the reins as new Rattlers coach.
FAMU President Larry Robinson playfully suggested a new moniker for the Florida A&M offense to compliment the “Dark Cloud” nickname its defense has carried.
“Thunder and lightning,” said a smiling Robinson in remarks during the introductory press conference for Colzie held at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
Tiffani-Dawn Skyes, the embattled athletic director who had been under fire by the school’s affinity groups and alumni for the way in which she handled the search for Willie Simmons’ replacement, beamed with excitement as she highlighted the leadership Colzie implemented as interim head coach along with the years of 30 years coaching chops that justified him being elevated in the pecking order.
“I am happy to say that we found someone who checked each and every one of those boxes,” said Sykes. “At the end of this process, James Colzie III emerged as the right person to lead FAMU football. I ask everyone who loves FAMU to fully support our coach, his staff, and our football student-athletes.”
Colzie has worked in football for over two decades and has been part of three national championship teams. He was a cornerback on Florida State’s first national championship team in 1993.
Colzie was previously head coach at Saint Mary’s University in Canada, where he went 23-19.
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When it was his turn to address all the students, alums, and boosters, Colzie affirmed that the relationship between himself and Sykes — despite reportedly not being her first choice as coach — was on good terms.
“I call her boss. I call her AD Sykes. I call her Miss. Tiffani,” he said. “I’m hoping to call her a friend for quite some time. She’s done an amazing job. She’s been extremely transparent with me throughout this entire process, and I can only help but say I appreciate that.”
Monday marked the culmination of an arduous and eventful month for FAMU football, which really couldn’t bask in its Celebration Bowl championship after Simmons took an offer to be an assistant coach at Duke on Jan. 1 before a tumultuous 27-day coach search that ended with Colzie from among a pool of 45 candidates.
Even though Colzie won’t inherit the same cast that won an HBCU national championship, the expectation for the program, he says, remains unchanged.
“My goal is that every year we beat that other team (Bethune-Cookman) in Daytona Beach, win the SWAC championship, and play in the Celebration Bowl,” he said. “That’s the goal, which means that’s the expectation.”
Colzie, like any new coach, wants to establish whatever his version of culture is within the confines of the football program. But Colzie admitted that his first order of business is to fortify the roster on the recruiting trail. With National Signing Day just a few weeks away, there may be no more important task.
Colzie indicated that “one or two guys” entered the transfer portal after Simmons left for Duke, which is seemingly not as damaging as it could have been in the era of unabated player movement.
“Our first priority is making sure we sign a successful (recruiting) class on February 7,” he said. “We have needs, and we are going to address them.”