Show Me My Opponent: Florida A&M

Circa 2003-04, I was really into reading as much as I possibly could about college football and basketball history. If you can imagine this – and I’m sure it’ll shock anyone reading this – I particularly loved rating systems. I was obsessed with the BCS and with its interlocking parts – Sagarin, Billingsley, Howell, et al. For whatever reason, a certain group of schools grabbed my attention in 2004. They were all newcomers to I-A (now FBS) in football, and they were all from Florida.

Obviously, you know the first two by heart now: Florida Atlantic and Florida International. Both are commuter-ish schools near or in Miami that offer degrees of various repute and what might as well be coaching rebuilding programs. In both sports, the following coaches have taken their talents to (sorta close to) South Beach: Lane Kiffin, Butch Davis, Ron Turner (took Illinois to 2001 Sugar Bowl), Isiah Thomas, Mike Jarvis (mid/late-90s CBB guy that took St. John’s to the Elite Eight in 1999), etc. These are places you go to convince others you’re younger than you are.

The third of these was a total mystery, and still is: Florida A&M. For one season, and one only, they transitioned up from I-AA to I-A. They have a phenomenal all-time record of 567-274-23 (67%) in football, including six MEAC titles from 1990 to 2001 under head coach Billy Joe. (I implore you to read more about this here, from friend of the show Bill Connelly.) In basketball, I can remember them taking on Kentucky in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. It would be Kentucky’s last win of that season.

Since that moment in time, Florida A&M serves as a historical oddity: the football program that died on impact in 2004, a basketball program that’s almost done the same, minus a play-in game loss in 2007 to Niagara. Largely, they operate of no consequence to anyone outside of Tallahassee, unless you know about the Marching 100, and I promised myself this wouldn’t be another post about marching bands. They do bring their basketball program to Knoxville this week. Unfortunately, they do not bring the marching band, or much notable history, with them.

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