Value of the FAMU Brand

I just got back this past weekend from the FAMU NAA National Conference. It was an experience that was great in so many ways. On Saturday, we were addressed by the new athletic director of FAMU, Kellen Winslow, Sr. Yes, the Hall of Famer, the prototype for the modern tight end, Attorney Kellen Winslow, Sr.  I think he was glowing….well maybe not. During his speech he was giving, he said that FAMU athletics didn’t make $900,000 when we got beat down by Ohio State last year on national television. He said that we, in fact, lost seven million dollars during that game. His message focused on building and protecting the brand of FAMU and how games like that tear down and destroy that brand. I have had people ask me how he came up with the numbers and it couldn’t be that much and if we invested the money it would be fine and on and on and on. Sometimes, I’m truly surprised how people isolate FAMU from the real world.  

My first car was a brand new Chevrolet Cavalier. It was a piece of crap. I had not driven that car ten thousand miles before I had to have in the shop for this and that. The brakes locked up on me at a stop light once, couldn’t move the car. I got everything replaced on that car and it just couldn’t stay out of the shop. My air conditioning went out on me completely at 80000 miles one hot day in July in Tallahassee.  I said to myself, this is ridiculous. I hopped online to find the most reliable car brand in Tallahassee I could afford. My choices ended up being Honda and Suzuki. I have had my Suzuki now for eight years with no problems. I drive the bricks off that car and it keeps coming back for more. Chevy has made improvements with their cars, but to me it’s too late. That brand of car for me is not an option anymore to purchase. They have lost their portion of the $150,000–$300,000 I will spend on cars for me, my wife, and my family in my life time. Everyone that buys things understands this concept easily when it comes to branding….except when it comes to FAMU college athletics.

When FAMU got on national TV, we became a beat up, no good, cheap Chevy to the rest of the world. The whole world was laughing at our school and we were okay with it. Many of our alumni were foolish enough to believe that somehow we got over on Ohio State because they paid us all that money, but the joke is really on us. How many parents would tell their children not to attend FAMU after that game? How many good athletes, not just football players but athletes in general, will not consider going to FAMU because of that loss? How many advertisers and corporate sponsors did we lose because of that loss? How many alumni were turned off from donating to the athletic department after seeing that final score? How many tickets sales from the whole athletic department from local fans were lost because of that game? Our brand, FAMU Athletics, was heavily damaged on a national and possibly international level in that one game. How much was that worth? Did we get our money’s worth from Ohio State? I say no.

My mom says all money aint good money. Its not worth the damage to our brand to take the fast money of a quick payday in exchange for embarrassing losses that damage our brand for years to come. We have to build the machine ourselves and create a sustainable and successful athletic department that elevates the FAMU brand. Its not going to be easy, but it we want it done right, we have to do it the right way.  Show me one school that is truly successful (world class facilities and staff, championships in multiple sports, graduates a high percentage of student athletes, etc.) that relies on brand damaging butt kickings to finance their athletic departments on a regular basis and I will shut up.  But you cant because thats not how you build a winner. Champions pay the price to win. Dont believe me, ask the Hall of Famer in the AD office.

©  Stephen D. Roberson, 2016