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MEAC Commish Thought that FAMU, B-CU Supported MEAC-SWAC Clash
MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas on Tuesday clarified his response to a question from the Democrat concerning the participation of FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge.
A story in Sunday’s sports section quoted Thomas’ initial response to the schools’ decision. The story also prompted the presidents of FAMU and B-CU to issue a joint statement reiterating their position to not support the game.
Thomas said he thought the question — answered during a MEAC Media Day session last week — implied that the two universities had reversed their decision about participating, and he responded favorably. FAMU and B-CU decided last spring that they would not play in the MEAC-SWAC game after it was moved to Orlando.
Thomas was asked about the schools’ position based on information from a source close to the situation who said FAMU was rethinking its decision. He said he was unaware that the impetus for the question was from information obtained from the source, who also described a meeting involving FAMU officials, representatives from ESPN and the commissioner.
Thomas didn’t comment on whether the meeting took place, but FAMU president James Ammons on Tuesday said it did. The MEAC-SWAC game wasn’t discussed at the meeting, he said.
“FAMU and Bethune-Cookman have made a decision and I respect their decision,” Thomas said Tuesday.
A day earlier, Thomas had sent an e-mail to the Democrat clarifying his comments and commending Sunday’s story.
“I was not involved in the presidents’ decision to play or not to play in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge and have not had any conversation with either president on any final decisions regarding their institutions’ participation in this event,” he wrote.
The MEAC-SWAC game matches a team from each league during the first week of the college football season. The MEAC and SWAC are two of the most prominent conferences in the country made up of historically black colleges and universities.
Thomas said the game is one of his initiatives to get more television exposure for MEAC schools.
Jackson State will represent the SWAC and Hampton will play for the MEAC on Aug. 31 at the Citrus Bowl. Bethune-Cookman was expected to represent the MEAC, until the game was moved to Orlando.
Along with the move, Disney withdrew its sponsorship of the Florida Classic, an annual MEAC season finale between FAMU and B-CU. Ammons and Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of B-CU, then announced their schools would not play in the Challenge.
“Dr. Reed and I represent our universities in the best interest of our universities,” Ammons said Tuesday. “We made the decision in Orlando (last spring) that we would not support or play the Challenge. I feel for Florida A&M it’s in our best interest not to.”
In the joint statement that Ammons and Reed said was intended to correct “information that was erroneously printed in the Tallahassee Democrat ,” they said neither school would support any athletic event involving an HBCU in Orlando.
“We believe such a contest would negatively impact the annual Florida Classic,” the presidents said in their joint news release. “In addition to being a much-loved tradition for our alumni, the Florida Classic is a critical revenue source for both B-CU and FAMU. It is our strong belief that scheduling a football event in Orlando prior to the Florida Classic will erode its brand and put this critical funding source at risk.”
MEAC’s Thomas misunderstood
By St. Clair Murraine, The Tallahassee Democrat