An independent audit published this month reveals that officials at Florida A&M University improperly transferred nearly $3 million in institutional funds to pay down annual deficits in its athletics program. The actions violated state higher education rules and led to multiple executive firings in the university’s financial offices.
Just the latest
The audit is the latest chapter in a devastating narrative of Rattler athletics, which has been plagued in recent months by resignations and budget deficit issues ranging over nearly a decade.
Any department running a deficit of more than $1 million a year – but which found resources to swap its football field playing surface to turf – showcases a lack of executive priorities.
But this audit shows more than a lack of priorities; it shows a full financial crisis that will lead to larger troubles for the university at large. A direct path of responsibility that lies at the feet of FAMU graduates for allowing this to happen.
First, we have to understand how an athletic department runs a deficit. The typical culprits in athletic budget issues: employee salaries and benefits, travel, shortfalls in auxiliary revenues for concessions, parking, and licensing/apparel sales.
It is clear that FAMU is struggling to maintain the costs of doing business in Division I athletics, but what isn’t clear is the source of the financial drain. Outside of administrative costs for executive leadership and compliance, Rattler athletics runs on a barebones roster of coaches, trainers, and development staff.
Can’t fix it
We may never know what is costing FAMU sports so much money, but we do know that the president’s office and the board of trustees are not capable of fixing it.
We know that they have publicly offered solutions to the problem and have publicly failed to execute them, and this recent round of revelations proves that either FAMU lacks institutional control in its finance and management infrastructure, or the president or board members or combination of both instructs officials to break state rules.
It is time for FAMU alumni to act like they care about the university more than the good feelings associated with familiar faces running the school.
BOG is scheming
The Florida Board of Governors (BOG) is allowing FAMU to run afoul of state system rules and guidelines as part of a long-term strategy to make restrictive rules against FAMU in the name of integrity and transparency.
Everything revealed in this recent independent audit was already unveiled in the state’s audit issued in January, and everything the BOG needs to know about FAMU President Larry Robinson and the FAMU Board of Trustees’ role in perpetuating the ongoing issues it has known for years.
FAMU supporters believe that Dr. Robinson was appointed to bring calm to a storm which surrounded the institution for years following the hiring and consequential firing of former president Elmira Mangum, but skeptics believe that his installation was one of the crown jewels in ultimately disrupting FAMU’s growth and potential.
How long will it be before FAMU faces an accreditation sanction for mismanaging athletics? How long will it take before a lack of operational infrastructure leads to FAMU facing a ‘death penalty’ ruling from the NCAA? How long will alumni and supporters continue to ‘Invest in Champions’ before asking where the money specifically goes, if not towards eliminating debt shortfalls?
Most importantly, how long will the issues in athletics surface in the operations of the university at large – mostly of deficits, leadership transition and turmoil, and a lack of answers? If a recent story about FAMU’s Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative is any indicator, the problems are already creeping into the other side of the Rattler house.
A centerpiece of FAMU’s institutional business enterprise and its university tradition is completely malfunctioning, with a president and board of trustees either completely unaware or covertly complicit in its failure with the blessing of the BOG. The only people qualified and invested enough to stop it are FAMU alumni.
After all, they got Castell Bryant up and out of Tallahassee for far less.