I was there. The Florida A&M vs Alabama State game was truly electric from start to finish. Literally, no one left the game from the time it started until the final horn blew. FAMU’s 23-10 win over ASU was a major piece of the SWAC Eastern Division race. It was the essence of the best of HBCU football.
The game was close until the end. Both teams were making big plays throughout regulation play. Halftime was over the top with excellent performances from the ASU Marching Band and the Marching “100.” Both cheerleader squads and mascots were on full display. A well-traveled ASU fanbase helped FAMU alumni, fans and students pack out Ken Riley Field at Bragg Memorial Stadium to near capacity.
The intensity of the game in the second half was thick. For most of the second half, it was a one-score game. Until 3:43 in the fourth quarter when FAMU linebacker Isaiah Major grabbed an interception, hurdled an ASU player, and dragged another for 10 yards into the end zone, it was a battle for top billing in the SWAC Eastern Division.
While there is still plenty of football left to play, the importance of the game in the overall Eastern Division standings is why both coaches had a sense of urgency in the game, and that was conveyed to the players.
Visiting teams at Bragg Stadium are in front of the student section
In Bragg Stadium, the visiting team is directly in front of the student section. It is one of the rowdiest bunches in all of college football, not just HBCU. They do line dances together, cheer together, recite sayings together, and taunt the opponents together.
The taunting part is not new to any sport or any team. It happens all the time everywhere. Maybe nowhere compares to the “Dog Pound” at North Carolina A&T basketball games. That crew at NCA&T literally gives each opponent a nickname by the end of pregame and calls them that name the entire time. It’s a part of the sport.
Somehow on Saturday, Jacob Freeman, a transfer from Georgia State, got caught up in the emotions of the game. He was seen jawing with students in the crowd first, then his attention turned to the security guard charged with keeping him separated from the fans. Freeman, unfortunately, threw a solid blow to the security guard who tried to direct him from apparently approaching the stands where the student section was. It was hard to watch and it went downhill from there.
The security guard informed FAMU police who arrested Freeman and took him to Leon County Jail. He is charged with battery causing bodily harm. It is very sad. It appears that a promising opportunity to pay for college will be superseded by court proceedings and defense arguments. The split-second decision will forever alter his life.
HBCUs were developed to educate and nurture blacks
The very beginning of HBCU culture dates back to 1837 when Cheyney University of Pennsylvania was founded. The purpose was to provide an outlet for gifted blacks whose education was hampered by slavery and segregation. They were founded to be nurturing hubs to accelerate the cause of academics among those who had no other opportunity for secondary education.
HBCUs were founded as not only a safe haven for gifted blacks but also a place to bring along those who fell short of otherwise stringent acceptance standards. It was an opportunity to mold youth into productive citizens.
Jacob Freeman needs a full HBCU embrace in the face of adversity
Jacob Freeman was immediately suspended from the ASU team. He spent part of Saturday night in the Leon County Jail as he was being processed for the battery charge. Alabama State Director of Football Operations Terry Sims, formerly B-CU head coach, stayed to ensure Freeman was taken care of and released before driving him back to Montgomery.
After the incident, Freeman’s name was removed from the ASU football roster on the Website. As news spread and the video made its rounds, people searched on the Website to see who No.16 was who was seen striking the officer. Unfortunately, with Freeman’s name removed, many postings of the other No.16, incorrectly identifying freshman cornerback Adrian Fitts as the perpetrator gained momentum.
Once it was determined that it was not Fitts, and in fact Jacob Freeman, the reality of what he was facing began to settle in. Social media was abuzz and condemned Freeman. Some wished he would lose his scholarship while others wished he would be charged.
Through sources, Freeman’s remorse began to emerge. Several sources had begun to report that he was indeed sorry for what he had done and wished he hadn’t taken everyone through the ordeal. One account said something was said about Freeman’s daughter and that was what set him off.
Whatever the case, this is the time to not rid ourselves of this young man. He will face a legal battle in front of him. My hope is that he complies fully and gets this ordeal behind him. My hope is also that ASU will mentor him back to society. He must feel like the worst outcast at this moment.
He made a mistake in the heat of the moment. The student section was getting on him, his team had lost an important game, and possibly someone brought his daughter into the conversation. All this while experiencing the exaggerated levels of testosterone associated with playing college football. It was a perfect recipe for a mishap. Now is the time for an HBCU not to move like the rest of the world and give up on this young man. He should be made to atone for his decision, understand where he went wrong and the proper way to handle it, and put on a new path to being a contributing citizen. After all, that is why HBCUs were created and what makes them great.
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