Top recruit’s visit sparks debate about PWIs using HBCUs in securing talent

FAMU and FSU got a visit from the top prospect, sparking a debate about HBCU-PWI relations.

Kayvon Thibodeaux, the top recruit in the football class of 2019, flew into Tallahassee, FL overnight on Friday. The highly-recruited defensive end spent Saturday night visiting Florida State and meeting with new head coach Willie Taggart.

In this 24-hour news-cycle where clicks are the almighty and the high school recruiting scene is a gold mine, its a story, but not a surprise.

The twist to the story is that before Thibodeaux joined FSU for its “Saturday Night Lights” extravaganza, he started his day at Florida A&M. It’s not every day the top player in high school football makes a visit to an HBCU, especially one from California. The visit wasn’t unexpected, we wrote about it nearly two weeks ago, but it was significant and in its own way, controversial.

From the day we reported on Thibodeaux’s announced intention to come to FAMU, there were two schools of thought.

The first said it was great that the top recruit in the country wanted to come to visit an HBCU and that was born out of the hope, not necessarily that the Rattlers would land the prep star, but that it might show other highly-touted recruits that HBCUs aren’t second class. And that the new generation of young black athletes, having grown up with the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and countless other young folks who looked like them, might be ready to shake the table and return to HBCUs.

FSU sells the city, including FAMU

Then there is the other side which skeptically looked at this as just another case of the paternalism of a Power Five PWI (Predominately White Institution) in FSU using an HBCU to sell top recruits on the cities culture while using its power, money, and influence to make sure that he never wore those colors. This thread by a young FAMU alumna pretty much sums it up.

As noted in another thread by the same author, there is documented history in her perspective, given by former FSU coach Bobby Bowden himself.

“It’s a great school, and we’re proud of the way we get along with them,” Bowden told Sports Illustrated in 1994. “But to be honest, I didn’t understand how much it meant to our recruits.”

It’s something we’ve talked about at length the past two weeks on the HBCU Gameday podcast. In general, while we understood both outlooks, we’ve sided with the first school of thought because as supporters and pushers of HBCU sports, it has a brighter upside. But the realities of the past cannot be ignored, and one has to wonder if that will ever change.

More than an Athlete

As for Thibodeaux’s visit, he seems to have enjoyed himself at both Tallahassee schools. He toured the campus, met with head coach Willie Simmons, and said himself that he had an “unbelievable time” at FAMU. He even asked when homecoming was and said he hoped to come back. Oh, and he left FAMU fans dreaming of what might be with a few shots of him in orange and white, along with the hashtag “More Than An Athlete.”

As great as that looks, feels and sounds, FAMU is still a heavy underdog in this fight. Visiting an HBCU is one thing, choosing a middle-of-the-road MEAC team over an ACC school is another. Ultimately, the decision is Thibodeaux’s and everyone else in Tallahassee and beyond will have to live with it.

But no matter where he ends up, Thibodeaux’s promotion of his visit, his exuberance and his statement that he is more than an athlete with his visit to FAMU has to make even the most skeptical critic of it all have some hope that it could influence more players to give HBCUs a serious look.




    July 29, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    First off, great article! It’s written better than most found on ESPnothing and other sports sites. Second, a top tier athlete going to a third tier school to be lost in the land of athletic obscurity is a joke. No offense FAMU, I attended as well as my wife. I love my HBCU’s but to be honest, every accomplishment a top tier student athlete would make stat. wise would be instantly asteriked with a “would that be the same if he/she were at a power 5 team” comment. This young man knows this as well as the world. I wish the premise of this article were the case but in my opinion, this young man’s action is simple patronization and should be shamed along with anyone taking his comments seriously. Bringing attention to HBCU’s is a long overdue necessity in the spectrum of sports but should be done in a more sincere and honorable light. Sorry, but this young man lost a potential fan in me by doing this. Third, shame on FSU, maybe they didn’t publicly court him to visit FAMU, but the irony is way to strong to ignore, but then again so is the beauty and culture of FAMU. So, much props due to anyone with FAMU recruiting that played a role in his visit. Keep up the outstanding work. I’ll leave that there. But, big ups to all the beautiful African American sisters at FAMU…past and present..including my wife…Lawd have mercy!!!! I mean that with all respect and sincerity. Oh, and the few at FSU too! (Pun intended). Fourth, let us hope that our star African American athletic youth one day wake up and take the talent and power they hold and place it in our HBCU’s. HBCU’s are not top tier simply because we endorse white PWI’s with our talent for the prospect of our dreams of grandeur. HBCU’s exist for our namesake so stop making all that money for those PWI’s and invest your talent in your own community. Plenty of bright minds blossom and hail from HBCU’s. So should athletic talent. Many have made it to higher level arenas of sport via HBCU’s. Most of these sports don’t exist without us, so make them recognize that fact!! (Mic. drop, Obama style!!!)

    • Angenetta Sanchious

      July 30, 2018 at 12:11 am

      Do it God!!!
      To God be the Glory – and it’s a Great article!!!
      I would love to see him sign with FAMU!!! Ain’t nothing like an underGrad HBCU experience!!! Also, this shows the confidence of Coach Simmons. He believes FAMU is able to compete with ’em all!!!
      Pssssss, strike 🐍

  2. Tony Williams

    July 29, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    Yes it can happen. FAMU is not inferior to any school and the conciousness level of today’s kids is rising. Lets level the playing field. No more exploitation. Strike Rattlers

  3. Zan Ford

    July 30, 2018 at 12:36 am

    I just love #HBCU.. When it comes to sports, people need to stop sleeping on my#HBCU

  4. B

    July 30, 2018 at 7:41 am

    This is the first time Im hearing about this story but still want to express my opinion about it. Mine is a two parter.

    Whoever college / university Kayvon attend ,he will be a great asset to their school. At the end ,only he know where he want to go and hope that he’ll do well in and off the football field.

    I also will admit,if Kayvon was my son,my inner self hopes that he’ll choose FAMU. Though I went to a
    ” PWI”( mixed) , if I could have afford the HBCU that I initially wanted to go I would have went.The first time I visited an HBCU was at a stepshow and the second me found research at the AU Center. Although I loved the University I attended, there is a difference in attending a PWI and an HBCU.

    With PWI, your going to academics and a social life where with HBCUs from what I gather, you’re not only going for great academics and a social life but you’re going there to learn about yourself, community ,and your history. I would envy my brother and my late grandfather who attended HBCUs. The education they received there I never knew at the University I attend. It was fascinating to hear what they learned at their schools.

    Far as the social aspects of FAMU,you heard it first from Kayvon. He said his visit there was
    ” unbelievable ” and said that every athlete should visit an HBCU. Though his visit isn’t a guarantee of committing to FAMU,his experience, seemed impressive…reminding me of my first first visit to the AU Center at 16 during a stepshow with my brother.

    There are colleges that have parties but for HBCUs, it’s they’re not parties,they’re informal “family reunions ” as I call them…thay was what Kayvon seemed to have experienced. My experience at an HBCU felt ” down home”.That is how I liked my experience to be.

    I have no kids but I have nephews. When they graduated from high school,they began to plan their futures. I suggested to them that if they plan on going to college/ university to know what they want from them and add at least one HBCU on the list.
    I’m also encouraging them to attend any HBCU functions …like Kayvon did…to get a gist of them.

    I support Kayvon and that part of me hopes that he picks FAMU…for his possible career and literally for the family.

  5. Siti G.

    July 30, 2018 at 10:17 am

    ‪@stevenjgaither >> GM! I love your article that covered @kayvonT8’s visit to FAMU! Just wanted to state that I wasn’t skeptical of his visit at all; I just wanted his visit to FAMU to be treated and respected as its own unique event that had nothing to do with FSU, especially since we (now) know how they use FAMU as bait to snag talent. Hope I cleared that up!

  6. B

    July 30, 2018 at 11:28 am


    Let us not forget about famous Black footballers who went to HBCUs like Doug Williams (Grambling State University ) and Michael Strahan ( Texas Southern University). Look how far their HBCU education carried them.

    There are other Black footballer who have done well on/ off the field with an HBCU education.

  7. Gwendolyn Henderson

    July 30, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Taking a shot at recruiting highly-touted student-athletes coming out of high school should be done so unapologetically by HBCUs. The 2010 Mr. Florida, Quentin Williams, attended Bethune Cookman and his High School coaches did everything they could to change his mind to choose a D1 PWI. This young man broke all of Tim Tebow’s records and you would think the media would cover that but they did not. In the end he had a very supportive family that encouraged him to be proud of his decision. As a FAMU alumna I appreciate the personal conversation we had to help him get to his decision. One day there’s going to be another significant recruit that decides to attend a historically black college and he’s going to have the best explanation possible for those who question that decision.
    In fact, I want a kid to say I’m only accepting offers from HBCUs. It’s going to happen because I feel it in my bones and when it does happen the first female an African American woman to commentate HBCU Sports on ESPN, Tiffany Greene, #FAMUAlumna can interview him. #HBCUs4Ever

  8. hmharvey

    July 30, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Naw, this young man likes the fact that FAMU is where the sisters are at when the Seminole practice is over.

  9. gerald brown

    July 31, 2018 at 9:50 am

    It was significant that Kayvon mentioned SBI in his farewell thank you tweet. For a young man with his apparent sensibilities, SBI is our ace in the hole.

    I am glad he is considering Florida A&M, and I can relate to leaving Los Angeles for FAMU. Best move I ever made.


  10. B

    August 1, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Just came from reading another sports website attempting to predict the college / university where Kayvon will go to play football. One of the expected things I noticed about their ” predictable ” choice was that FAMU wasn’t on their high list. Some folks are so full of themselves * eyeroll*.

    At the end,the choice will be Kayvon’s but I also find it crazy of how people assume the worst of HBCUs
    Why not Howard..Morehouse..Tuskegee..FAMU or any HBCU? He’s a Black high school athlete with a choice of a college reflecting him and teach the right way about his culture,history and community from around the world. Besides,it’s about as some from the FAMU/HBCU community have mentioned …a FAMUly ( lol..cute way of saying it).Theyll love Kayvon with or without football.

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  13. Kimberly Davis

    August 10, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Very confused with this article. I am reading an article on the NY Daily News website and the young man clearly states his SOLE purpose of his trip was FAMU !!! Florida State was having a football camp and he decided to visit that campus.

    Daily News article: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/ny-sports-phillips-thibodeaux-famu-20180809-story.html

    • B

      August 11, 2018 at 8:39 am

      Just got finished reading it.

      Although I don’t put 100 percent in anything ,it sure seems as if FAMU is a winner in Kayvon’s book. Even before this came up, I was reading a story in his bio and the things he said about himself seem to gear towards FAMU/ HBCU .His goals and thoughts about certain issues would fit one.

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  15. NateCity

    December 26, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    He will pick FAMU. and when it’s all said and done, he can look back and say. that’ s the house that, i built.

  16. Robert

    January 13, 2019 at 7:32 am

    Just recently Isaiah Crowell transferred to Alabama State after leaving UGA. For the time being the focus should be on being the first on the list when players at bigger programs are looking to transfer. It doesn’t appear that blue chip black athletes fully realize they hold all the cards in terms of the ESPN money and shoe money that goes to these bigger schools so we might be waiting a while before one of them has the b@||$ to commit to a black college right out of high school.

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