Media Erred By Going Easy On Florida A&M

David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel, July 1

If it all happened at Florida State, the headlines would have been endless.

If it all happened at Florida, a dozen TV trucks would have been parked outside Jeremy Foley’s house every night.

If it all happened at Miami, Congress would be calling for an investigation.

But it happened at Florida A&M, so we shrugged and moved on.

What happened the past few years? Only the most incompetent and damaging era in the state’s college sports history.

It wasn’t just athletics. The entire school seemed to have been taken over by Marx Brothers Management Corp. It all came crashing down Thursday.

Interim president Castell Bryant laid out her cleanup plans to the board of trustees. Forty-one people were fired, and four sports were eliminated. The athletic budget was slashed by 23 percent. The school also will apparently no longer pay law-school benefactors $100,000 a year to live in Kentucky.

All this comes shortly after the firing of football coach Billy Joe. And the discovery that more than 200 NCAA violations previously reported didn’t begin to cover the abuses.

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“The Board of Regents in its last year acknowledged it looked over a lot of things at FAMU, because it didn’t want to appear to be racist,” Wilson said. “So it gave FAMU a lot of passes. Then when it came down to a test of accountability, we had none.”

If you ever want to frighten media off a story, just breathe the R word. If we held FAMU to the scrutiny level of Miami, the problems might have been addressed more than 200 violations earlier.

{snip}

Read the rest of this story here.

St. Petersburg Times, July 5

Whether Florida A&M University interim president Castell Bryant is moving judiciously or recklessly seems almost beside the point these days. What is more relevant is that things keep falling from the trees she is shaking.

A payroll audit now has led to the firing of 41 people described as “ghost employees”—people who cashed university paychecks for work they never performed. Bryant also has her eye on nearly 100 more “employees” who have not responded to certified letters asking their whereabouts. She has asked state government auditors and the state prosecutor to investigate, and FAMU’s human resources vice president was blunt about where the discoveries are being made. Said Janie Greenleaf: “It’s really all over.”

The audit is not the only only bad news, either. At the same meeting in which Bryant announced the firings, university trustees found themselves having to perform radical surgery on the university budget. A financial audit has determined that FAMU had spent $51-million more than was budgeted this past fiscal year. So the trustees eliminated four sports programs entirely, cut the rest by 16 percent, reduced travel plans for the prestigious FAMU Marching 100 band, and dropped many athletic scholarships. They also agreed to give back $1.5-million to the National Science Foundation, admitting the university could not demonstrate how it spent the grant money.

The news has to pain current and former students of FAMU, a historically black institution that has risen in its 117 years to national stature. But trustees chairwoman Challis Lowe is right: “I believe the kinds of things we are doing represent a new day for FAMU. The Legislature should be encouraged we are taking responsibility for the millions of dollars the state gives us.”

Lawmakers can be encouraged, but this hunt is far from over. The kind of mismanagement and fraud that Bryant is uncovering is stunning in its breadth. Whether she is the one to restore FAMU’s standing remains to be seen. But the path she is on must be followed to every possible destination.

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