FAMU VP/AD Sykes is correct to be honest about FAMU Athletics

Vaughn Wilson

By Vaughn Wilson

FAMU Vice President and Director of Athletics Tiffani-Dawn Sykes took to a meeting of the 220 Quarterback Club.  The elephant in the room of longtime season ticket holders and additionally those who have participated in the Investing in Champions program since its inception was the price increase.  Investing in Champions packages saw modest increases in price this year.  Accroding to Sykes, it was absolutely necessary.

“I took the opportunity to sit down with university advancement, our box office and our business office and it turned out that after going through how much, because a lot of those things in the package we are charged for, Florida Classic tickets we get invoiced for.  Parking, we get invoiced for.  On our most popular package we lost $140,000 last year.  On our second most popular package we had lost a little over $90,000.  That’s almost a quarter of a million dollars that we lost,” Sykes said.

The Investing in Champions initiative was brought to FAMU by former athletics director Milton Overton.  His rearing in big time college athletics at the University of Alabama taught him that FAMU needed to move from the strictly transactional ticket sales model to one that would offer more and allow “investors” the opportunity to actually invest beyond the assets given in return.  Overton was specific in the first years that the department would be making a sharp turn and in the process, he would have to offer more in the packages than what was traditionally done at larger school and schools with similar campaigns.

In the initial Investing in Champions packages, there were polo shirts, lapel pins, bumper stickers, tags and several other perks that even carried over into basketball season. Basketball season tickets and VIP receptions were a part of the initial Investing in Champions campaign.  As the years progressed, gradually, the packages were tailored more to their original intent, with less cost to the athletics department and more investment to the department.

Over time,  inflation and the cost of goods has skyrocketed.  In this, FAMU’s cost of goods sold has increased exponentially, outpacing the small price increases. With transitions of athletics directors and no one in position to put all the involved parties together like Sykes did, they were no analytics that backed a wholesale increase in price.  As in any business environment, analytics of all business actions must guide the process.

In respect to the athletics directors between Overton and Sykes, their tenures had specific purposes and for the most part, each did what they were brought in to do.

Sykes has been brought in to first and foremost implement and tailor the compliance and academics processes to an operable and sustainable state.  The recurring compliance issues were due to the fact that each athletics director was operating in their own silo.  FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. has drawn a line in the sand and took many of the functions of the athletics academics and compliance departments under the university’s umbrella.  Therefore, a change in athletics directors does not change the processes or policies of academics and compliance.  FAMU should have been here a long time ago and saved Rattler faithful a whole lot of heartache and possible changes to the trajectory of its programs, especially football with the debacle that began the 2022 season.

In the end, Sykes’ brutal honesty is much needed.  Fixing things often requires growing pain.  Nonetheless, repair is never easy.  It takes a team effort and it takes investment in repairs.  FAMU’s Investing in Champions campaign was an absolute game changer for the department.  It was the first major initiative that fostered investment beyond the transactional sale of tickets and parking.  Over time the financials of it have needed to be adjusted, but the core of the initiative is vital to the success of the FAMU Department of Athletics.

I must applaud Sykes for literally going into the hornet’s nest face-to-face with decades old ticket holders, to tell what is not always a cordial crowd, that FAMU Athletics has to charge more and in order to get what you had last year you’re going to have to spend more.  But, it’s what all who care about FAMU Athletics needed to hear.

About Carma Henry 21625 Articles
Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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