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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

FAMU Board Of Trustees Tables Men’s Basketball Coach’s Contract Amid Controversy

FAMU Board Of Trustees Tables Men’s Basketball Coach’s Contract Amid Controversy

Patrick Crarey during his introductory press conference on Thursday, April 18th, 2024. Gerald Thomas III

The contract for Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) new head men’s basketball coach, Patrick Crarey II, has been put on hold due to concerns over his alleged abrupt dismissal of players. The Board of Trustees wants to gather more information about a volunteering agreement between Crarey and the university.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the Board of Trustees met on Monday to discuss a three-year contract worth $450,000 ($150,000 per year) that Crarey signed on April 17 to lead the Rattlers men’s basketball team. However, due to lingering questions, the approval of the contract has been postponed until the board’s retreat in August.

“At this point, given where we are and the concerns we all have about the process and the need for additional information, I move that we table this discussion until further notice from the chair of the appropriate date, and that can be as soon as our upcoming August retreat or before,” FAMU trustee Kelvin Lawson said.

FAMU hired Crarey on April 17th as its 15th men’s head basketball coach. Crarey most recently served as the head basketball coach at St. Thomas University, a private Catholic university in Miami Gardens, where he also served as the school’s assistant athletic director.

Crarey was scheduled to officially be under contract at FAMU starting July 1, following the June 30 contract expiration of dismissed Rattlers’ men’s basketball coach Robert McCullum.

However, Crarey signed an agreement with FAMU in April, which FAMU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tiffani-Dawn Sykes says was “fully executed through the university through the proper channels” for Crarey to “operate and advise (Sykes) in some decision making as a volunteer.”

Sykes informed the trustees that the unpaid agreement between Crarey and FAMU had been filed with the university’s human resources department and that Crarey had not been present on campus every day since being hired in April. Moreover, Sykes explained that Crarey had been making frequent trips to campus “at his own expense” to assist with ordering equipment for the upcoming season. Trustees quickly raised concerns about the agreement.

Deveron Gibbons, the vice chair of the board, voiced worries that Crarey’s volunteer arrangement might contradict the NCAA Division I Council’s rules for volunteer coaching. Lawson expressed concerns about potential Title IX violations.

In 2023, the Division I Council voted to eliminate the volunteer coach designation across Division I. This change included those coaches within a new limit for countable coaches in each applicable sport, as per the NCAA’s website, which Gibbons referenced. The Division I Council also approved an increase of two coaches in men’s and women’s basketball. These additional coaches would be allowed to engage in coaching activities, but they would be prohibited from recruiting off campus.

“What that (the NCAA Division I voluntary coach ruling) essentially does is not eliminate volunteer coaches, but allows people who are operating, whether they’re compensated or not compensated, to have the same scope of responsibilities to those that are paid coaches,” Sykes said in response to Gibbons.

“And to my knowledge, I’m not aware of it being a Title IX violation,” Sykes said to Lawson.

Tallahassee Minister sends letter to FAMU President over son’s dismissal by Crarey

Collin McAllister, a Maclay graduate, arrived at Florida A&M to play basketball for the Rattlers in 2023. FAMU Athletics

The FAMU Board of Trustees’ pause on approving Crarey’s contract comes on the heels of a detailed letter from an esteemed Tallahassee pastor questioning actions taken by Crarey which led to the dismissal of 16 current players, including the minister’s son.

In a letter obtained on Sunday by the Tallahassee Democrat, The Rev. Dr. Julius McAllister, the senior minister of Bethel AME Church, wrote to FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson expressing his dissatisfaction with the dismissal of 16 players, including his son, Colin. The players were informed via telephone on April 27 by Crarey that they were being dismissed from the team. This decision was made without allowing them to compete for a spot, as promised by AD Sykes.

McAllister mentioned that Crarey’s notification came at the beginning of FAMU’s final exams and just days before the college basketball’s transfer portal entry deadline on May 1.

“It is my strong opinion that if Coach Crarey and AD Sykes have made decisions to release players from their scholarships and forced them to transfer two days before the closing of the portal (the portal closed on May 1, 2024), Mr. Crarey should not be hired as the next coach of the university’s Male Basketball Team and AD Sykes should be required to answer tough questions and thoroughly explain the circumstances surrounding the authorization of the dismissal of an entire basketball team, including questions pertaining to the intolerable treatment of our most precious investments – our young African American men,” McAllister wrote in the letter to Robinson.

“If her answers are inadequate, she too should be released from her contract.”

Lawson initially mentioned the players’ dismissal. Colin McAllister is a 2023 Maclay School graduate who performed as an All-Big Bend point guard for the Marauders. While not mentioning names, Sykes said that “the local community member’s child was a walk-on student-athlete.”

She also refuted McAllister’s claims that Crarey released all players from the team.

According to Sykes, when Crarey signed the volunteer agreement, there were 19 FAMU men’s basketball players, with 13 Division I-allowed full scholarship players and six walk-ons or non-scholarship players. She said three of the scholarship athletes are still on the team while “there’s an opportunity” for three of the six walk-ons or additional walk-ons to be added.

Sykes also told the trustees that three returning scholarship players remain on FAMU’s men’s basketball roster. Sykes said the other 10 departed scholarship athletes either graduated or entered the transfer portal.

“All of the student-athletes were not dismissed. It is not true that all of their scholarships were taken and all 13 people on scholarship were dismissed from the team,” Sykes reiterated.

During the meeting, Sykes mentioned she requested Crarey to downsize the roster from 19 to 16 as a “cost-saving measure for the (athletic) department.” She said she asked the same from former FAMU coach McCullum before his departure.

Crarey is not out of a job, but contract terms could change

Patrick Crarey during his introductory press conference on Thursday, April 18th, 2024. Tallahassee Democrat

Crarey is not out of the FAMU job. During the meeting, President Robinson explained that as FAMU searches for answers revolving around Crarey’s status, he could offer to hire the coach for a one-year contract. Single-year agreements do not have to come before the board of trustees.

Robinson says the one-year contract can be a placeholder while FAMU addresses questions of player dismissals, voluntary employment, and previous salary before extending Crarey a multi-year offer.

I do have the authority to hire him for a single-year contract. I hope the board recognizes that, and there’s no anxiety around that if I do, in fact, make that decision,” Robinson said.

FAMU Board VP cites ‘red flags’ with Crarey’s contract

FAMU Board of Trustees Vice Chair Deveron Gibbons. Gleen Beil

Gibbons said he feels trustees need more information on Crarey’s voluntary contract. He questions whether FAMU tripled the coach’s salary from his previous job at St. Thomas before approving Crarey’s signing with FAMU.

“We don’t know the process, the individuals, and can’t get a clear answer on if this person’s salary has been tripled,” Gibbons said. “I’ve never seen where a head coach in a volunteer status comes in without a contract. That brings red flags to my mind. We should push this back or not hire this person.”

Sykes said FAMU didn’t triple his salary as Crarey made $95,000 annually at St. Thomas and agreed with FAMU to earn $150,000 yearly. The current discussions of Crarey’s contract with FAMU may lead to a new approach to approving coaching contracts.

FAMU trustee Otis Cliatt II said he feels an earlier dialogue could have helped with a smoother process of addressing contractual endeavors: “This conversation should’ve occurred back during the volunteer contract phase. We’ve had a coach on campus since April, working as a volunteer, and we’re voting in June on a contract.”

“So, if we were to not agree with the contract, we’ve just had a person with a family on campus for this period of time that may or may not get voted in. We can’t continue to get on a call like this and work out stuff that should have been worked out on calls with individuals.”

FAMU adds four players to 2024-2025 roster in the meantime

Florida A&M men’s basketball team has added four players to its 2024-25 roster. Joining the Rattlers this season are junior college transfers Jamine Charles, Lenard Taylor, Kaleb Washington, and Tyler Shirley. Photo Courtesy of HBCU Gameday

In the meantime, Florida A&M’s men’s basketball team has expanded its 2024-25 roster with the addition of four new players, all transfers from various junior colleges and universities. Jamine Charles, a 6’11 forward from Blinn Junior College, brings with him solid stats including 284 rebounds, 429 points, and notable defensive contributions with 20 steals and 66 blocks over two seasons. Lenard Taylor, a 6’2 guard from Clarendon College, averaged 12.4 points per game while shooting efficiently from the field, three-point range, and the free-throw line, alongside 27 steals and 139 rebounds during his tenure at CC.

Kaleb Washington, a 6’8 guard from Butler Community College, arrives at Florida A&M after starting in 20 games at BCC, where he averaged 11.2 points per game and demonstrated versatility with 28 steals and 14 blocks. Tyler Shirley, a 6’8 forward transferring from Clayton State, contributed significantly in his junior season at CSU with 11.7 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game, showcasing a strong shooting percentage across field goals, three-pointers, and free throws.

These additions are expected to bolster the Rattlers’ lineup significantly, providing depth and experience as they prepare for the upcoming season in collegiate basketball.

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