FAMU players asks school president for ‘changes made now’

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida A&M’s football team, which considered not traveling for its season opener at North Carolina last week, is openly questioning the level of financial and compliance support players are receiving from the university.

Nearly 90 players penned a blistering letter to school president Larry Robinson a day after the team lost 56-24 to the Tar Hills while playing without 26 ineligible players. FAMU was paid $450,000 to make the trip to Chapel Hill.

The letter implored Robinson for “changes made now” and says “we are not interested in further empty dialogue with you or your staff.” The letter says players knelt in protest during two school songs played after the game and will continue to do so “until significant changes that facilitate a positive student-athlete experience are made.”

FAMU plays Jackson State in the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami on Sunday, a game nationally televised on ESPN2.

The letter clarifies players were ruled ineligible not for academic performance but rather because of “procedural issues within the registrar’s office, compliance department and academic advisement.” FAMU has one compliance and one academic adviser for athletics, according to the university.

Among the issues spelled out in the letter involve financial aid was not awarded in a timely manner to buy books, register for classes and avoid evictions.

The university responded by saying it is committed to maintaining a culture of compliance and conforming with NCAA guidelines.

“We are confident that our processes are effective and timely,” the school said Tuesday. “We will continue to monitor our efforts in this regard and pursue all avenues to provide an excellent student experience to every athlete. FAMU is committed to upholding high standards and rigorous adherence to NCAA guidelines.”

The letter alleges issues with the “student-athlete experience at FAMU,” which has the second-largest enrollment of any of the Historically Black Colleges or Universities in the U.S. It also says there’s no student-athlete representation on the committee searching for a new athletic director. Former FAMU athletic director Kortne Gosha resigned in April and has since been hired by Tulane as a senior associate athletic director.

Among the players ruled ineligible were linebacker Isaiah Land, the top defender in the Football Championship Subdivision last season and a potential NFL draft prospect in 2023, and right tackle Cam Covin. Land and Covin have retained attorney Tom Mars, who has a history of helping college players through NCAA eligibility issues.

“I don’t think anyone in college sports has ever witnessed a bigger blunder on the part of the university or a more unfair punishment aimed at the players – the only people in this mess who did everything right,” Mars said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“If a parent fails to file a tax return, the IRS doesn’t punish their kids. But this is the college sports equivalent of doing just that.”

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.