Ex-FAMU Coach Speaks Against Money Games

William “Billy” Joe coached at Central State, FAMU and Miles College. ( photo)

A lot has been said and written about Money Games over the past few days, including on this website. A few days ago, legendary coach William “Billy” Joe took to social media with his thoughts.

Joe spent his entire career coaching at HBCUs. He got his start at Cheyney, then came over to Central State where he led the team to two NAIA titles, coaching pro standouts Erik Williams and Hugh Douglass. Joe also coached at FAMU from 1994 to 2004 and finished up at Miles College from 2007 to 2013.

The following letter was posted on Billy Joe’s Facebook page on Monday. It’s long, but for those interested in HBCU athletics, it’s worth a read. Check it out.


I have never been a proponent or advocate of major college division 1A football teams (FBS) competing against division 1AA (FCS) teams. My primary concern is the disparity in physicality that will ultimately cause a catastrophic injury to a Division I AA football player: A player succumbing to paralysis, and even death is an accident waiting to happen! Most major college football players are bigger, stronger, faster and more talented than Division I AA football players. They also have the latest state-of-the-art athletic infra-structure, resources, equipment, and other high-tech weightlifting facilities to get even stronger, faster and bigger than their D-1AA counterpart. Of course, there are a nominal number of football players on lower levels who are just as proficient and talented as major college football players, but when you juxtapose the major college athlete with the small college athlete, the chasm is humongous. This variance in height, weight, speed, size and talent is my most paramount objection because it is going to cause a cataclysmic and calamitous injury. The game is innately dangerous. The differentiation in physicality heightens the incident of life threatening injury. Then, when it happens, we will be infamously in a state of contrition and bereavement; and it will be etched in our hearts and minds for time immemorial.
There is a distinct reason why peewee football players don’t compete against middle school school football players; there’s a reason why middle school football players don’t compete against high school football players; there is a reason why high school football players do not compete against college football players and there’s a reason why major college football players don’t compete against professional football players. The differentiation and imbalance of physicality is too immense. It would be suicidal; and no parent would tolerate perfidious coaches with their kids being subjected to such physical abuse and mistreatment! 

Yes, occasionally a Division I AA football program will defeat a Division I A football program. Although that is just an aberration. However, that scenario can happen when a Division I AA team is outstanding and the Division I A team is not quite as adroit at its game, or takes the smaller team for granted. An outstanding Florida A&M University football team beat a poor University of Miami team in 1979, but in that same year Famu’s football team lost to Bethune Cookman University later that season.  

Moreover, I am definitely an exponent of minor sports at small colleges competing against major colleges in minor sports: Basketball, golf, tennis, baseball and swimming are non-contact sports. There is very little probability for serious bodily injury. Facetiously speaking, who would you rather compete against for a championship If you had a choice between fighting Mike Tyson or playing golf against Tiger Woods? Of course, you would choose Tiger Woods because Mike Tyson will pummel you into submission with brain damage and a coma! Tiger Woods will beat you by 40 strokes and pummel you but you will not be physically harmed, just embarrassed. So, if you can tolerate the stench of humiliation and shame because of losing disgracefully, go ahead and compete against major colleges with your minor sports.  

Furthermore, it is not the major colleges fiduciary responsibility to balance small colleges’ athletic budgets. If a Division I AA college cannot financially accommodate it’s football program, it needs to drop down to Division II; if it cannot handle it’s Division II football program, it needs to drop down to the Division III (no scholarship) level; if it cannot handle a Division III football budget, it needs to, emphatically, drop Football altogether! In my opinion, Famu made an excruciatingly repugnant mistake when it decided to move up to Division 1A with insufficient funds in their coffers, limited physical resources and a poor over all athletic infra-structure. This foolhardy and impetuous move to D 1A was precipitated by a misguided administration’s desire to be the first black college to do it; and they thought the MEAC was below them because of their recent dominance and not worthy of their membership. However, I am elated to say, after a year of Famu being vilified and a change in the administration (President & Athletic Director), Famu migrated back to a more financially appropriate and sensible Division 1AA level in the MEAC.  

It was extremely difficult for me to watch the three HBCU football programs compete against major colleges on television last weekend: FAMU, Savannah State and Bethune Cookman football players played their hearts out, but they were outmatched and overwhelmed as far as physicality is concerned. Those games were a disaster and not actually a legitimate contest. FSU and Ohio State University stop trying, substituted liberally with frugality and shut their offensive machine down at halftime. The University of Miami used a running clock in their game against Savannah State, thus not playing a full 60 minutes of competition. They were not legitimate football games, and the major college football coaches were more embarrassed about the lopsided scores than anyone. I can sympathize and empathize with those major college coaches. As FAMU’s head football coach, we put 69 points on the Morgan State University football team before halftime; we put 76 points on South Carolina State University; 87 points on Norfork State University and 63 points on Bethune-Cookman University. As the head football coach at Central State University, we put 101 points on a team before the third quarter was over and the coach voluntarily took his team off the field, and refuse to play the rest of the game. And these teams were on our same divisional level. Therefore, notwithstanding, both coaches feel the pain, mental anguish, emotional stress and embarrassment of lopsided scores.  

Athletic directors of HBCUs, at the behest of fans, alums and football coaches, please cease and desist with these unscrupulous and scandalous games; presidents of HBCUs, stop genuflecting to the almighty dollar because you are putting your student athletes in harms way with these shameful games. Gentlemen, stop prostituting your football programs out to the highest major college bidder when it is more than obvious that the major college teams will have its way with your players. Don’t play these games at the football players expense when there is no expense (financial reward) forthcoming to them. Football is a collision sport; dancing is a contact sport! The game is relentlessly dangerous when two teams of decisively unequal talent are competing against each other. It is pure hell and damnation, not purgatory, when two teams of unequal talent are competing against each other! 

Let me remind you, HBCUs are at an unambiguous disadvantage when competing against major colleges in football. It is extremely difficult to win games when playing with primarily one ethnic group: African-Americans. Other colleges and universities, because of stereo-typical and socio-economic reasons, can recruit student-athletes across the social and racial spectrum with impunity. Many outstanding football players of non-African-American heritage often times do not have a serious proclivity or propensity for attending a historically Black University. To put it in perspective, how strongly would an all Jewish American team compete; how competent would an all Italian American or Polish American team compete; how strongly would an all Asian American team compete; how strongly would an all Irish American or Hispanic American team compete on the field? Quite frankly, HBCUs are doing something very historic and revolutionary in football with one minority ethnic group, and it will forever live in perpetuity in the archives and annals of gridiron history.  

Sure there was a payday…but why submit and commit our football players to the slaughter for financial gain. The football players will never profit from the guaranteed money and, in all probability, neither will those respective football programs. Often times, after a Division 1AA teams receive their “blood money” the players are so psychologically demoralized and injured, they are unable to compete admirably against teams on their same level. Sometimes their entire season goes spiraling down the black hole of outer-space and the abyss of cyberspace; and they can’t beat their way out of a wet paper bag with holes in it. The residual effect of a traumatic defeat by a major college football team can destroy an entire season for a lower-level division college football team. 

In retrospect, if those same three HBCU teams played major colleges in football in the pre-integration era of the United States of America , I vigorously believe those teams would have a great opportunity to defeat those major colleges. Why? All of those phenomenal African-American athletes that are playing for the major colleges in the south east quadrant of our country would be playing for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Figuratively speaking, If HBCUs could extract all of the black football players from the Historically White Colleges and Universities, the HWCUs would have difficulty staying within 100 points of HBCU football teams. Many HWCUs have all 11 African-Americans starting on defense. By the way, a black college All-Star team was talented enough to have the audacity to play the NFL Championship Chicago Bears during the Jim Crow era in our country. HBCU football is definitely not able to do that in this modern and racially integrated era. Presently, HBCUs are unable to recruit and attract a bevy of five-star, blue-chip, quality student athletes to their campuses. 

In conclusion, let’s not equivocate and used phony hyperbole to justify conjured up reasons and explanations for playing these outlandish football games. The euphemistic terms I hear for competitiveness is a misnomer. I don’t see HBCUs recapturing the glorious days of Jim Crow football. Black college football was at it’s nadir and zenith during that time. 

Let’s bring about an abatement of these games because they do not ingratiate us with anyone, especially major colleges. I will always look at these games with a jaundiced eye because I am literally speaking from personal experiences. I am convinced that within five years the NCAA will bring about a prohibition or an abrupt halt to these games, and I am confident players will receive substantial financial remuneration for their services on the gridiron. HBCUs, especially, are subjugating their football players to serious injury because of the disparity in physicality! The football players’ health and welfare are my main concern.   

I have been inundated and bestowed with copious amounts of awards and a plethora of honors throughout my 34 years of coaching black college football as a head coach: I am a member of the college football Hall of Fame; the only coach to win five sequential black college championships; second only to Eddie Robinson for most wins in the history of black college football; I was president of the American Football Coaches Association; I am a member of 12 Hall of Fames. But I am most proud of the fact that no player was ever paralyzed or killed on my watch, or during my tenure as their head football coach…and for that, I am truly thankful. 

Written by Billy Joe



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