By Brad Shellgren
Dr. Larry Robinson can already taste the banana pudding. It’s been on his mind for almost a year. FAMU’s interim president is ready to tailgate again with his fellow Rattlers at this year’s Florida Classic in Orlando. He comes for the desserts; he stays for the comradery.
“The Florida Classic is so much more than a football game,” Robinson says. “It’s a reunion. It brings us together. It is a special time.”
Robinson strolls through the parking lot like a celebrity. He stops to take pictures, enjoy friendly conversation, and of course appreciate a rib or two. At each stop, he can feel the FAMU pride.
“You are part of a lifetime of people that have done great things. There is a sense of belonging,” says Robinson.
That pride has been growing at FAMU for more than a century. In October, the University celebrated its 130th birthday. An institution this old is built on tradition and Dr. Robinson is convinced the University’s best days lie ahead.
“A perfect day is seeing the excitement of students heading off to class,” he says. “Seeing the dream come alive through future leaders. It is hard to have a bad day.”
Robinson is currently serving his third stint as interim president. He would be honored to be selected as FAMU’s permanent president, but regardless of whether the position is temporary, his vision for the University remains the same.
“Provide innovative educational opportunities,” says Dr. Robinson. “Making sure the faculty has all the resources they need. Give the students a great educational experience.”
The Florida Classic is part of that experience. This football game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman is the biggest Historically Black College game in the country.
Talking with Robinson you can hear the drumline. Here comes the Marching 100 dressed in their sharp green and orange, bringing the crowd to life with deft beats and signature moves.
“There is always great excitement about this game,” says Robinson. “You know we have the best band!”
The band, the tailgate and the game gives Dr. Robinson and his support staff provide a chance to showcase FAMU. The Florida Classic is a major recruitment opportunity. Busloads of high school students are invited to experience being a Rattler.
“When you walk through the door, you don’t have to prove anything to us,” assures Robinson. “The only thing they have to prove is that they are willing to work hard and we will ensure they have the best educational opportunity.”
Those educational opportunities have not gone unnoticed. U.S. News and World Report ranks FAMU the 6th best HBCU in the country. Further proof that current student made a great choice in higher education and gives perspective student another reason to give FAMU serious consideration.
Whether you are a future FAMU student, current student or alumni, the celebration that is the Florida Classic takes place this year on November 18th. Orlando will serve as host for the 20th year.
“Orlando is a great host,” says Robinson. “They have opened their doors and have opened their hearts to us.”
Dr. Robinson thanks Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other city leaders for making the Florida Classic a success.
“They roll out the red carpet,” says Robinson.
Success on the field has not been as easy for FAMU. The Rattlers are looking to break a 6-game losing streak to Bethune-Cookman.
“Oh, it matters. We want to win,” says Robinson with a deep laugh.
Yes, a win would be nice. However, Dr. Robinson measures success through the accomplishments of FAMU’s alumni and the potential greatness of its current students. This is what he sees when he experiences the Florida Classic. That, and a big plate of banana pudding!