When writing about other universities and their athletic programs, generally there’s a wealth of information from websites, blogs, message boards and others on the internet.
But then there are times like these.
Usually, it occurs during the months of November and December when this author is doing research on Ohio State’s non-conference opponents in men’s basketball. So it’s very rare when this happens during football season.
But here we go.
There are 12 colleges and universities that comprise of the State University System of Florida which includes Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida Polytechnic University, Florida State University, New College of Florida, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of North Florida, University of South Florida, and University of West Florida. The 12th member is Ohio State’s opponent on Saturday, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, better known as Florida A&M or FAMU.
According to Florida A&M’s website, the school was founded as the State Normal College for Colored Students in 1884, thanks to the efforts of Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs, an African-American politician who served in the Florida legislature. Gibbs helped get House Bill 133 passed which established a white normal school in Gainesville, and a colored school in Jacksonville, though the state decided shortly afterwards to locate the colored school to Tallahassee.
Today, FAMU is the premiere school among historically black colleges and universities that includes more than 13,000 students and 700-plus faculty members.
Some of Florida A&M’s famous alumni includes former Major League Baseball players Vince Coleman, Andre Dawson, Marquis Grissom, and Hal McRae; several former NFL players including FAMU’s current head football coach, Earl Holmes; former professional tennis player and 11-time Grand Slam tournament champion, Althea Gibson; FOX Sports sideline reporter, Pam Oliver; and the guy who starred in the television show Designing Women, actor Meshach Taylor.
Unfortunately, Florida A&M is probably better known for a hazing incident in 2011 that led to the death of drum major Robert Champion, a member of the university’s “Marching 100,” who was severely beaten in a bus following an away football game. That led to three faculty members resigning, including then-President James H. Ammons, plus 12 former band members were charged with manslaughter. For nearly two years, the marching band was suspended from all activity. Last June, though, that suspension was lifted.
As for Florida A&M’s athletics, the school’s nickname for men’s sports is the Rattlers, who compete in football at the NCAA FCS (Division I-AA) level, and are members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Holmes, who spent 10 seasons as a linebacker in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Detroit Lions, is in his first-year as head coach of the Florida A&M football program. Holmes spent the first four years from 2009-2012 as an assistant under former head coach Joe Taylor, who resigned last November.
So far this season, the Rattlers are 1-2 overall with their lone win coming against Mississippi Valley State (27-10) on Sept. 1. The losses were to Tennessee State (27-7) and Samford (27-20).
Junior quarterback Damien Fleming is 34-of-61 passing for 383 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Freshman running back Omari Albert leads the team in rushing with 85 yards on 22 carries and one TD. Second is junior Lemond Buice (22 att., 65 yds.) followed by senior James Owens (23 att., 66 yds, 1 TD). FAMU’s leading receiver is junior wideout Lenworth Lennon (14 rec., 229 yds, 1 TD).
Defensively, senior linebacker Michael Ducre leads the team with 29 total tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Ducre is also tied with senior linebacker Brandon Denmark with 1.5 sacks. Sophomore cornerback Patrick Aiken tops the FAMU roster with two interceptions.