Eighty-nine members of Florida A&M University’s football program signed a letter calling out FAMU’s vice president Dr. Larry Robinson for failing to supply the team with proper counseling and student-athlete resources.
According to the letter, provided by WTXL ABC-27, Rattlers players had longstanding issues with the program’s leadership leading up to FAMU’s matchup against the UNC Tar Heels on Saturday, but collectively agreed to play.
The team was also short-staffed for the matchup, with 26 players ruled ineligible for Saturday’s game.
Among the issues cited in the letter is a lack of academic advisors. The team utilizes one advisor, despite employing three more advisors in 2018. FAMU’s program has also been without an athletic director following Kortne Gosha’s departure in April.
The players said in the letter they failed to meet the requisite class credits to stay active.
The NCAA administered two of the team’s veteran players a four-game suspension for academic certification issues.
In Sunday’s letter, they blamed Dr. Robinson for staffing issues that misguided players in their academic requirements.
According to the suspended athletes, “On Friday, after much dialogue within our team, we decided to play at UNC. We determined that we would not play for this institution, but for our families, teammates, classmates, our rabid fan base and our coaches who had prepared us and love us.”
The letter added:
“We played our guts out, and in the process, two of our teammates suffered season-ending injuries. After the game, we decided to protest the Marching 100’s playing of the Florida Song and FAMU Alma Mater by kneeling during both songs.
“We will continue to do so until significant changes that facilitate a positive student-athlete experience are made. We will not sing a song that begins ‘College of Love and Charity…’ when we feel neither from this university.”
“Dr. Robinson, this letter is not a personal attack, but a demand for positive change and a cultural shift in the current direction in FAMU Athletics. We came to FAMU to better our lives and we are expressing concerns about impediments to that goal.
“We are not interested in further empty dialogue with you or your staff. We want to see changes made now! We have given our bodies and shed blood, sweat, and tears on behalf of this institution. It’s time for FAMU to reciprocate the love.”
One of the major signees from the letter and FAMU students suspended is FCS sack leader Isaiah Land.
Attorney Tom Mars, who legally represents Land and offensive lineman Cameron Covin — the second player suspended for four games — provided OutKick’s Trey Wallace with a statement on FAMU’s ongoing situation with its players and staff.
“I don’t think anyone in college sports has ever witnessed a bigger blunder on the part of a university or a more unfair punishment aimed at the players — the only people in this mess who did everything right.
“If a parent fails to file a tax return, the IRS doesn’t punish their kids. But this is the college sports equivalent of doing just that.”
FAMU Coach Willie Simmons previously spoke against his players’ suspensions, reiterating that they were not at fault for the academic deficiencies.
Simmons also supported the letter released Monday.
“I definitely support them, these are their feelings, and they haven’t been coerced into them,” Simmons told ESPN. “I’m proud of those guys for advocating for themselves and joining the long legacy of people at Florida A&M standing up for those that are underserved.”
FAMU lost Saturday’s game to UNC 56-24 — the former reportedly earned $450,000 for the contest.
Former AD Gosha released a statement following his resignation.
“My alignment and core values are very important to me, and there is no secret that we created a transformational student-athlete experience second-to-none that has elevated Florida Agricultural & Mechanical — that will place them on a trajectory far beyond my tenure.”
The full letter written by the players can be read here.
Follow Alejandro Avila on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela