In 1923, Bethune-Cookman University began playing intercollegiate football. One hundred years later, they experienced the pinnacle in HBCU football, earning two Black national championships in that time and 14 conference championships. With numerous players elevated to the NFL and other professional leagues, including a Pro Football Hall of Famer in Larry Little, the Wildcats have enjoyed much success in the SEAC, SIAC, MEAC and now are members of the SWAC.
With a couple of down years in 2021 and 2022, Raymond Woodie has been charged with reviving the program. Woodie himself is a former B-CU great. He was a four-year letter inner before graduating in 1996. After his playing days in the maroon and gold were over, he had a solid career as a collegiate assistant coach. Coaching alongside Willie Taggart at some of his most high profile jobs, he was an assistant at Oregon, Florida State, University of South Florida and Florida Atlantic University.
Woodie is known as a strong recruiter
Known as a strong recruiter, seven of his recruited players have gone on to have NFL careers after being drafted. Woodie was named head coach on Feb. 6 on the campus of B-CU. Woodie has since assembled his coaching staff, focused in on player retention and targeted prospects to round out his 2023 squad.
Kicking off the weekend for Bethune-Cookman University is a Champions Breakfast where donors and former B-CU greats will break bread in an invitation only event. Following that, at 11:00 AM on Saturday, all eyes will be on the area behind the ATC (formerly the Handfield Center), where the Wildcats will have a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new on-campus practice facility.
Athletics director Reggie Theus has been saying that the facility was in the works and thanks in part to a generous donation of one million dollars by NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, the turf field is moving full speed ahead with completion set for August.
“I think the on-campus practice facility is going to change the trajectory of our football program,” Theus said. “That’s one of the things I’ve been trying to do since I first took this job. I wanted to move the needle when it comes to on-field and on-court experiences in every sport. To start this process with the program that deserves to have its own because of the success of the program,” he said.
Woodie echoes Theus’ excitement.
“It’s going to be great. That was one big factor in taking the job in that AD Theus and the administration were tireless in working to get this done. It’s just amazing that it’s almost here, Woodie said. “This will bring our community back together. When I played we had a facility on campus and it was just a family atmosphere. There’s nothing like having your own and being home,”
Tailgate scheduled before Bethune-Cookman University football
Following the groundbreaking, the B-CU nation will have a mass tailgate at the stadium starting at 1:00 PM, leading up to the 4:00 PM start for the Maroon and Gold game.
There is a little anxiety for Woodie to enter the field as the head coach of the Wildcats for the first time. “Our philosophy is that we want to be smart, fast, physical and aggressive. Our goal is getting these guys to play at a high level and understand what we’re doing from all three phases…offense, defense and special teams. It’s a measuring stick to see what we have coming out of the spring. It will give us an opportunity to know what we have and be able to fill some holes. These guys are working hard and I’m excited to see them play up under the lights,” Woodie said.
Woodie understands playing at B-CU at a high level. He was a two-time All-MEAC first team selection as well as FCS All-American twice.
“We’re not done building our facilities. There’s a lot going on in terms of relationships in Daytona. We’re rebuilding our credibility and I’m excited to be a part of what is rebuilding the B-CU athletics department and facilities on solid ground,” Theus said.
Theus said that they have a commitment from the City of Daytona to renovate the locker rooms at the city stadium and efforts are being made to acquire a better on-site equipment storage facility at the stadium.
B-CU, coming off back-to-back 2-9 seasons will open their 2023 campaign on Sept. 2 in Memphis, Tennessee as they take on the Memphis Tigers.