FAMU Optimistic Despite Recent Sanctions From The NCAA

Jun 7, 2019

Florida A&M celebrates an interception against South Florida during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Tampa, Fla.
Credit Chris O'Meara / AP Photo

In May, Florida A&M University was placed on a five-year probation by the NCAA for improperly certifying 93 athletes throughout 12 of their sports. The actions took place between 2010 and 2017. Since, the university has been making sure it doesn’t happen again.

Florida A&M University is not a newbie when it comes to dealing with NCAA imposed penalties. In November of 2015 the NCAA handed down a five-year probation for the school's failure to monitor athletics programs.

The difference this time around is that the NCAA said they “recognize the university’s efforts” to improve the culture of compliance on campus. One of those efforts was hiring Kendra Greene, the Associate Athletics Director for Compliance.

“Before coming here I served in a similar capacity at Alabama State University," she said. " I was the Senior Associate Athletics Director of Compliance and Internal Operations. I was recruited to come here by Dr. [John] Eason in late January 2018. He had been here a couple months and he reached out to me." 

Eason is the Athletics Director for FAMU. He was hired in December of 2017 after all of the actions that caused the imposed penalties took place. Greene says she and Eason hit the ground running.

"We wanted to first look at the policies and procedures that were not necessarily bad, they just weren’t up to the best practices and the current standards of the NCAA. So that was one of the first things we did," she said.

Thursday, Greene shared those policies and procedures with FAMU Board of Trustees during a Special Committee on Athletics meeting. 

"What she’s put in place is a process to make sure that all the athletes that compete are actually certified based on NCAA regulations," Chairman Kelvin Lawson explained. "That we are graduating students at the appropriate rate based on NCAA regulations. And that the programs in total compliance so that we don’t have some of the issues moving forward that were dealing with now."

Greene said another important thing was just making sure they had enough staff to do the work.

“If you’ve only got one person doing the job of three people, you’re one person, you know. And so I know my predecessor, two or three predecessors back eve,n was just a one or two-person shop doing both academics and compliance. Academics maybe only had one or two academic advisors, they now have five. We now have three full time compliance officers. And that’s one of the standards."

Greene says changing the culture meant hiring people who were devoted to seeing the students succeed.

And, like in most fields, news about probation and violations doesn’t help reel in support. For FAMU, that could mean fewer donations from alumni and others, and for an athletics program that has operated in the red for years that could mean more bad news. But board of trustees member Bettye Grable says  she's optimistic  the changes the athletics department is making will  keep donations coming in.

"We are confident in their abilities to be able to resolve these problems overall. We have great oversight from the [State University System] Board of Governors. And, there is no doubt in my mind that with the plans set in front of us in this current board meeting that we will be able to overcome those issues and bring that department into the black once and for all," said Grable.

Donors aren’t the only ones that could be turned off by the probation. Potential recruits may be turned off by the news also. Greene, however, believes the recruits understand that those issues are in the past.

"Knock on wood our recruits get it, you know. Hardly any of these coaches were here during that time. I mean, you just have to look at the perspective. We have a new men’s basketball coach, we have women’s basketball coach, volleyball coach. They just keep going and going, we’ve had so many great new hires that a lot of our coaches that are here weren’t even here in 2017."

Greene says the focus now is making sure the past is put behind and stays that way.