Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Rattler football adds former Louisville assistant to staff

FAMU football has hired Chris Klenakis, a former Louisville assistant, to its staff to coach the offensive line and serve as run game coordinator. 

Klenakis has had previous coaching stints at Arkansas, Iowa State, Nevada, Southern Miss, and Central Missouri.  


Klenakis replaces Alex Jackson, who left for FAMU for an offensive analyst and assistant offensive line at the University of Tennessee. 


Klenakis was Louisville’s co-offensive coordinator in 2016 when Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy.  


FAMU intends to play a spring football schedule, due to the Mid- Eastern Athletic Conference postponing football until the spring.


 “We are very excited about offensive line coach, who will arrive later on this week, who has a ton of experience at the highest-level coaching Power Five football at Arkansas and Louisville,” said head football Willie Simmons. “We feel like he’s going to be a guy that can take our running game to the next level.”

Monday, October 19, 2020

Former CFO, Comptroller, and Budget Director file wrongful termination lawsuit against FAMU, Robinson

Former FAMU Chief Financial Officer and VP of Administration Wanda Ford has filed a whistleblowers lawsuit against the university claiming retaliation after her sudden removal in June 2019.  Ford’s dismissal came shortly after she disclosed to University President Larry Robinson and Board Chair Kelvin Lawson that FAMU, again, had used auxiliary funds to close a deficit in the Athletics Department in 2018.  

Ford’s departure was followed by the abrupt dismissal of Comptroller Tiffany Holmes and Budget Director Ronica Mathis.  Both Holmes and Mathis are plaintiffs in Ford’s lawsuit.  


An internal FAMU audit discovered that nearly $3 million had been transferred to cover athletic department debts to close the books by June 30th of that year.  University rules require two signatures on fund transfers over $1 million.   

The total athletic deficit for the 2018 year was brought down, after Robinson transferred an additional $1.5 million from the FAMU Foundation to athletics to presumably repay part of the auxiliary money.  After all was said and done, athletics ended the year with a  $1.4 million deficit.


Since 2013, FAMU had been cited four times by the Florida Auditor General, in an operational audit, for athletic deficits. FAMU had promised the Florida Board of Governors that it would no longer use university funds to cover athletic debt. 


According to the lawsuit, Ford advised BOT Chair Lawson and President Robinson of the cash deficit during a conference call prior to preparing the university’s 2017-18 financial statements.  Both Holmes and Mathis were on that call.  


At that time, “Lawson accused Ford of changing the numbers in an attempt to explain the difference between the budget status in the operating budget and financial adjustments,” according to the complaint.  “The Board Chair, was concerned about having to inform the Board of Governors of yet another athletic deficit”, after he had ensured them that things were under control.


On June 7, 2019, Ford said she was called by Robinson to a meeting in his office with the VP of Audit and Compliance Joseph Maleszewski where she was asked how the athletic deficit happened.  Ford, reminded Robinson of their pervious conversation with the BOT Chair in which the deficit was discussed.


During that meeting Ford said she was interrogated by Malezewski who stated that she and her area were responsible for oversight of athletics but allowed them to incur a deficit.  


Ford pushed back, explaining that while there are policies and procedures in place to keep athletics from overspending, the problem is athletics (under then AD John Eason) does not follow them.


After the meeting, Robinson later called Ford by phone and told her he was faced with two options: 1) demoting (her); and 2) “you and I know what the second option would be.”


Later that evening, Ford texted Robinson saying she would be resigning effective immediately.


Shortly after that text Ford was “constructively terminated”, according to the lawsuit. The next day Holmes and Mathis faced a similar fate.


Holmes and Mathis claimed they did not learn why they were termination until reading about it in a Tallahassee Democrat article, which the lawsuit says was based on “contrived allegations”.


All three plaintiffs have had stellar employee evaluations while at FAMU and had received multiple promotions during their tenure with the University.  

Ford, for example, had been promoted seven times during her 18 years with the university, and Holmes had received five promotions in her 10 year stint at FAMU.  Mathis had been budget director for four years, and in recent years had been assigned oversight duties of the athletic budget. 


Mathis, according to the lawsuit, warned Robinson and the Board chair on several occasions that overspending in the athletic department would become an issue if not controlled.  Soon after she was “constructively terminated”.


Ford, Holmes, and Mathis have requested a jury trial.

Ford is the second former member of Robinson's Leadership Team to sue him and the university in recent years.  George Cotton, former VP for Advancement filed a lawsuit against Robinson and the BOT in 2019.  Cotton's lawsuit painted a picture of "bullying and harassment" by FAMU Trustees which, according to the complaint, Robinson allowed to persist. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

FAMU graphics design student Elijah Rutland tapped by NFL for its Week 5 "Artist Replay"

Elijah Rutland
, the 21-year-old, FAMU graphics design major from Macon, GA, recently was commissioned by the NFL to commemorate his favorite moment from Week 5 of the NFL in art.  Rutland chose a play from the Titans vs Bills game of one his favorite players Derrick Henry of the Titans.
Henry was one of Rutland’s all-time favorite college running backs during his time at the University of Alabama. Rutland  has followed his career to the NFL.
Rutland, broke the internet in 2018 when his “Black Rolf” meme went viral.  He later scored an internship with Warner Brothers in 2019 to work on the Dr. Seuss Green Eggs & Ham show which aired on Netflix.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

YouTube/BET virtual HBCU Homecoming to feature FAMU Marching 100 & Concert Choir

While in person homecomings across the nation have been cancelled this year and there are certainly no shortages of virtual HBCU homecoming participate in from week to week, YouTube is joining in on the fray.  It’s offering will take be live streamed next Saturday, October 24 at 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT on YouTube, and broadcast live on BET.   The HBCU Homecoming 2020: Meet Me On The Yard, will be hosted by rapper 2 Chainz and La La Anthony and feature gospel artists Tye Tribbett with the FAMU Marching 100 and the FAMU Concert Choir.

Additional appearances will include Desi Banks, Pretty Vee, and more.
Tribbett was on campus last week to shoot his pre-recorded segment with the FAMU band and choir.

The show will raise funds  for the United Negro College Fund and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.  It will also feature Greek step shows, students, alumni, and YouTube creators. In addition to the FAMU Marching 100, a performance  by the Jackson State U. "Sonic Boom of the South" Marching Band is also on tap.

YouTube is the second largest social media platform in the world.  "Meet Me on the Yard" is one of a series of shows created from YouTube's $100 million Black Voices Fund devoted to illuminating the works of Black creatives and accentuation "Black experiences around the world," according to a release.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Ibram X Kendi named one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2020

FAMU Alumnus Ibram X Kendi, a New York Times best-selling author has been included on TIME Magazines’100 Most Influential People of 2020 list.  Kendi, director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, is author of the 2019 best-selling book “How To Be an Antiracist” and “Stamped From The Beginning”, a National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, and spread.

Kendi, 37, has been called one of the most important scholars of his generation.  He is a 2004 graduate of FAMU with a dual major in Journalism and African American Studies. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

FAMU receives $1.5 million Gates Foundation grant to create a COVID-19 testing and processing lab

FAMU has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a COVID-19 testing and processing laboratory facility for its students, faculty, and staff. 

The announcement follows the state of Florida’s decision to close and privatize the current testing site at Bragg Memorial Stadium.

“We have had on our campus, since April 25th, a community-based state-operated COVID-19 testing site and tested well over 56,000 [people],” said FAMU President, Larry Robinson.

He said the Gates grant will enable us to have our own certified testing lab on campus. FAMU already has the equipment to run the site; it will use the money to hire the personnel needed to staff the operation. 

With the new lab, FAMU expects be able to have test results back within 24 to 48 hours.
“COVID-19 is exposing some hard truths about inequity in the United States and particularly its impact on the black community,” said Allan Golston, President U.S program, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

FAMU will also provide testing and processing services for three other Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state -- Bethune Cookman University, Florida Memorial University, and Edward Waters College.

“We'll have a tremendous impact because all of us are located in these very specific communities where these disparities are occurring and where the impact, I believe, will be tremendously great,” said Robinson.

Robinson says the current testing site has been valuable because it's on the side of town where it is most needed.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans are twice as likely as whites to be infected with the virus and to die from it. The CDC also noted COVID-19 infections among young adults ages 18 to 22, increased by 55% as many students returned to class between August and September.

Golston said safely reopening campuses and keeping them open requires access to rapid, effective COVID-19 diagnostic testing.

"Now, we can focus specifically on the internal needs of our students, faculty and staff, as we move into the fall and spring semesters of 2021," said Robinson.

The University hopes to begin hiring lab staff within the next few weeks. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

FAMU Deltas contribute $125,000 to support Rattler athletics

Alumni, and undergraduate, members of the Beta Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated® became the second member of the “Divine Nine” to accept the Rattler Athletic Funds' challenge to FAMU fraternities and sororities to contribute to FAMU Athletics' “ALL IN” Campaign.  
The Deltas contributed $125,000 to the campaign, and challenged other sororities/fraternities to “step up” and join them. 
The Rattler Athletic Fund "ALL IN" campaign has a goal to raise $750,000 during Phase I of the fundraising drive.  The funds from Phase I will be used to upgrade and enhance the football fieldhouse --- weight room, locker room, training room, foyer and coaches’ offices.
Since the inception of the campaign, in May, FAMU Athletics has raised $650,000 of its goal. There is still time to add your name to the donor roll by clicking here.