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Florida A&M players pen scathing letter after UNC, days before facing Deion Sanders' JSU

Nearly 90 Rattlers' players signed a letter critical of school leadership after 26 players were ruled ineligible for unspecified periods of time

Florida A&M’s football team played the game, its leaders presumably collected the $450,000 check and now Willie Simmons’ Rattlers have turned their focus toward Sunday’s showdown against Deion Sanders’s Jackson State University squad.

But the overriding issue – how 26, yes TWENTY-SIX! Rattlers were ruled ineligible in advance of last Saturday’s 56-24 loss at North Carolina – hardly is resolved.

On Monday, in a document first obtained by ABC News Tallahassee, a whopping 88 FAMU football players – remember, there are only 63 scholarship players on roster at Football Championship Subdivision programs – signed a letter directly addressed to FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson.

Per sources with direct knowledge, Robinson already was on site in Chapel Hill, N.C., Friday as Rattlers players pondered whether or not to play the game at UNC on the heels of seeing so many of their teammates deemed ineligible for undisclosed periods of time.

"It was very damaging to the morale of our football team to read on various media outlets '26 FAMU Football Players Ruled Ineligible,'" the letter read. "This narrative implies that we are not performing in the classroom.

“In fact, that couldn't be further from the truth. The issue at hand is not academic performance, but procedural issues within the Registrar's office, compliance department and academic advisement."

Sources with direct involvement in the game at North Carolina told FootballScoop on Friday that FAMU players deliberated not playing the game and ultimately held a team vote to determine what course of action the Rattlers would pursue. That element was addressed in the players’ letter.

“On Friday, after much dialogue with our team, we decided to play at UNC,” the players said in their letter. “We determined that we would not play for the institution but for our families, teammates, classmates, our rabid fanbase, and our coaches who had prepared us and love us.”

Additionally, nationally renowned sports law attorney Tom Mars weighed in on the matter and indicated that his services had been "retained" by at least two FAMU players as they seek to regain their eligibility. Mars did not mince words in his criticism of FAMU leaders.

Later Monday evening, Florida A&M’s Communications Department responded to the players’ letter with a lengthy statement.

“After the assessments of Spring and Summer 2022 academic progress, the Compliance team exercised its due diligence to complete the certification process on August 11 before the Fall sports season began,” FAMU’s statement read. “These are, as always, tight windows and beginning on August 13, waivers began to be submitted to the NCAA based on the feedback from our coaches.

“The NCAA subsequently issues its decisions on August 24, 25, and 26, 2022.”

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As previously noted, Simmons has enjoyed strong success atop the Rattlers’ program – which last year won nine games and engineered an historical run to the FCS Playoffs.