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FAMU Boosters Urge University President To Halt Search For New Coach Amid Growing Discontent Over Process

The school’s major stakeholders say they’ve been 'shut out and completely left out of the room.'

The search to replace Florida A&M University (FAMU) football coach Willie Simmons has hit a snag as the school’s major stakeholders say they’ve been “shut out and completely left out of the room.”

The Tallahassee Democrat reports FAMU Boosters, Inc., have requested university President Larry Robinson suspend its search for a new football coach to replace Willie Simmonds.

The FAMU fundraising group requested in a letter it delivered to Robinson and FAMU Vice President Director of Athletics Tiffani-Dawn Sykes, who is directing the search for a new coach.

FAMU Rattlers Boosters, Inc. President Selvin Cobb told the Democrat Robinson confirmed Sykes’ top candidate to replace Simmons is Shawn Gibbs of Division II Fort Valley State. However, FAMU boosters say they’ve been left in the dark.

“There has been no presentation of other highly qualified candidates being considered,” the letter states, according to the Democrat. “Therefore, the Boosters are requesting that you suspend any further head coach search activity until the Athletic Director addresses the university community on this subject.”

The letter continues, “We also request that major stakeholders are represented in the official Search Committee process for the Football Coach by you appointing an official Search Committee that can keep stakeholders abreast and provide discussion forums about the candidates.”

Simmons resigned as FAMUs head coach on Jan. 1 to join Manny Diaz’s staff at Duke University as the running backs coach. Simmons, who coached with Diaz at Middle Tennessee, spent five years at FAMU going 45-13, including finishing 12-1 this season, winning 11 in a row after a loss to South Florida in September. Simmons also led the Rattlers to a 30-26 victory in the December HBCU National Championship game against Howard University.

FAMU tried hard to hold on to Simmons, increasing its financial commitment to Simmons to $400,000, his assistant coaches and the program’s infrastructure. The FAMU community also raised $140,000 in 48 hours in an effort to retain Simmons and bolster the program.

Gibbs, who played football at North Carolina Central University, is 16-5 in two seasons at Fort Valley State and has spent more than 15 years as an assistant coach at the HBCU level. This Gibbs led Fort Valley State to an 8-3 record and a 23-10 victory

in the inaugural Florida Beach Bowl in Ft. Lauderdale in December.

FAMU alumni, supporters, and fans want the team’s recent success and believe an in-house candidate, such as interim coach James Colzie III, who served as FAMU’s assistant head coach and cornerbacks coach under Simmons, would be a better fit.

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