TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida A&M fired football coach Billy
Joe and two assistants Tuesday, about two months before players
report for practice.
The school cited NCAA rules violations in recruiting and
eligibility as reasons the coaches were dismissed.
Also fired were assistant head coach-offensive coach Gregory
Black and running backs coach Mario Allen.
The football program has had a series of problems recently,
beginning with an ill-advised attempt to move up to Division I-A
from Division I-AA. The move was canceled, and the Rattlers
finished 3-8 as a I-AA independent last season. Florida A&M will
return to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this season.
Also last year, FAMU was stripped of MEAC championships from
2000 and 2001 after an investigation showed 196 NCAA rules
violations throughout the athletic program.
Joe, 84-46 in 11 seasons at FAMU, has a career record of
237-108-4 in 31 seasons.
"There's going to be an array of mixed emotions," interim
athletic director E. Newton Jackson said. "Coach Joe has been one
of the celebrated coaches in football. So we're going to have some
that loved him and some that will be glad to see him go, I'm
Joe had two years left on his contract. Jackson would not say
what Joe was owed, or if there is a clause in the contract that
allows the school terminate him without paying the final two years.
The university doesn't plan to appoint an interim coach, but
rather conduct a search for a new head man. The team will open its
season at home Sept. 3 against Delaware State.
"It's certainly going to be a challenge for whoever seeks the
opportunity," Jackson said. "I would imagine, though, that there
will be a number of outstanding candidates that would still be
interested in having the opportunity to coach at Florida A&M even
with the future as it is."
The school's athletic program has been struggling financially
and its budget was cut 20 percent last year.
"What's next? I'm scared to think of it," said FAMU Board of
Trustees member Barney Bishop.