Covered for the Wrong Reason!
Over the past two seasons there has only been one HBCU team better than Florida A&M University. If not for the star power of Deion Sanders and the Phoenix-like rise of Jackson State, Rattlers head coach Willie Simmons accomplishments would be known beyond HBCU circles. As Jackson State went on their 22-2 two-season run of on and off the field dominance, FAMU was right behind them tallying an 18-5 record over that span. In the 2021 edition of the Orange Blossom Classic Simmons matched wits with Sanders for the first time and came out on the wrong end of 7-6 victory the next season the Rattlers were blown out as Coach Prime's recruiting monster had assembled an HBCU squad for the ages. Despite the beginning of the season stumbles, the Rattlers continued to nip at the Tigers heels ready to stake claim to the SWAC title and punch their ticket to the Celebration Bowl if Jackson State faltered.
Now that Coach Prime has taken his mission on to Colorado, along with a good amount of that Louis luggage, the SWAC East bridesmaids over the past two seasons have the chance to "strike and strike again" a seemingly rebuilding Tigers program who has lost most of its offensive and defensive firepower from last season. It is FAMU's time to take their shot at HBCU supremacy. Many have referred to 2023 as a program-defining season. The Rattlers return All-SWAC quarterback Jeremy Moussa and linebacker Isaiah Major along with a lot of players from last season's squad. When SWAC Media Day arrives in Birmingham on July 25th the talk should all be about is this the season of the Rattlers but life always has a way of throwing a wrench into the most obvious plans.
On Friday July 21st Coach Simmons suspended the football program indefinitely after it was discovered that rapper Real Boston Richey illegally recorded a video for his song "Send A Blitz" in the Florida A&M football locker room. There were players in the video and he was wearing a helmet in parts of the video. Over the weekend there was more national talk, think pieces, and videos about FAMU football than the past three seasons where they have amassed a 27-7 record. It is a shame that the program has been so successful during Simmons tenure and yet this one situation I'd the only thing that media entities and social media can talk about.
When FAMU arrives in Birmingham on Tuesday morning, instead of talking about what the 2023 season expectations are, they will be talking about this incident. It is an indictment on how many HBCUs are covered in the national media. Their on-field success takes a back seat but as soon as there is some issue off the field, it is talked about ad nausea and plastered on front pages of sites. Every podcast focuses on it and they never say anything about the team on the field.
FAMU's rival school Bethune Cookman University dealt with similar issues. Their team received very little coverage throughout the season as they began to improve and build themselves back up. However, in the offseason the team became fodder for discussion when they broke off contract talks with NFL hall of famer Ed Reed after Reed complained about the school's football facilities. Similar to FAMU, there was a decisive split between HBCU alumni and those who graduated from PWIs. The drama between Alabama State head coach Eddie Robinson Jr. and Coach Prime last season spawned the saying "Who is SWAC" and the subsequent song that rang out most of the season. It sparked debate about whether or not the popular coach was good for the culture and whether or not Coach Robinson was hating. What did not get spoken about and reported on much was the game. A 26-12 Tigers victory.
On Monday It was announced that the suspension of football activities was lifted and that the team could return to work while the school still investigates the issue. So the head coach and administration brought all of this negative attention on their team for a punishment that amounted to two days. This did not have to be the firestorm that it became. If this was the punishment, it could have been handle with a statement saying that they are investigating and will handle the issue internally. HBCU programs need more national attention for their accomplishments on the field. It is disheartening when these programs can only get attention for the negative nonsense and not for all of the positive things they do on the field and off it.