To answer the question, we must first operate under the assumption that the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees was being strategic in its initial decision to give parking revenues from Rattler athletic events to its athletic booster clubs.
If the goal was to use parking revenues as a fund to reward committed boosters’ travel and expenses, or maybe as seed money to finance fundraisers organize and thrown by the boosters, then it makes perfect sense for the institution to partner with its athletic Direct Support Organization in the same way most colleges work with their foundations to raise money for student scholarships, or to endow faculty positions.
But the reporting on the saga between the Rattler Boosters and the FAMU Department of Athletics never reveals how this particular partnership started, or why the unconventional agreement is now too unconventional to work under new leadership at the university. The Tallahassee Democrat reports on the kind of money at stake in parking and athletic philanthropy.
A July report approved by the Boosters’ Board of Directors indicates the organization generated $14,594 in revenue after the 2014–15 budget year and gave $130,493 to the athletic department, while paying a total of $132,449 in salaries.
(FAMU Athletic Director Milton) Overton has questioned the support of the Boosters. A document provided to the BOT shows the contributions made to the athletic department for the 2015–16 budget year. Most of the contributions are filed under “Booster Membership Fulfillment” and “Booster Travel Expense.”
Overton makes it plain about how the boosters have generally used money, partially generated from parking receipts.
“If you indicate that you provide $100,000-plus to athletics, and the way that is represented is from Boosters’ expenses, that is not a donation… These assets are athletics assets. They are everywhere. It’s a standard in the athletics industry. They don’t exist unless there is an athletic event. There is no parking unless there is a football a game or a basketball game. These are traditionally athletic assets that have to be used in the business strategy.”
Rattler Boosters Executive Director Mickey Clayton then makes his perspective on the leadership just as plain.
“They have their own vision in terms of how they look at things. Each administration is charged with doing what they think is best for the institution. I’m a guy who has been here for a few years and I’ve seen things that do and don’t work.
“When you take a job, you find out if the supervisor wants to hear your opinion. If they don’t want to hear it, you might as well hold your tongue if they don’t want to listen to it. I’ve been a coach, player and administrator, all at FAMU. It allows me to see things those who have not been here as long might not see.”
“The parking doesn’t define who the boosters are.”
By nature and organizational by-laws, both groups are working to improve the university’s athletic bottom line. So it makes sense that leaders from both groups are taking the position of needing and wanting to work with each other.
But the back and forth in the media reads as if Overton believes the Rattler Boosters are getting paid to help athletics raise money, and not actually raising money. Clayton’s comments read as if he is displeased that non-Famuans are telling Rattlers what is best for them, without inviting their input and while hijacking a time-honored tradition of athletic friend-raising.
Maybe both of these things are right, maybe none of them are. But the good news is that the board, administration and supporters are working through their differences in philosophy to crack the decades-old riddle on how to make HBCU sports profitable and nationally relevant.