The Rattler faithful should remember the date: February 20, 2016. On that date FAMU men and women basketball teams competed against their number one rival, the Bethune Cookman University Wildcats. Yes, the men lost and the Lady Rattlers won. Regardless of the outcome from either game, indications are that the Rattlers are on the rise.
The Wildcats and others in the MEAC should be concerned. The BCU men’s basketball team defeated the FAMU Rattlers, however, that win was by only 1 point against a young Rattler team full of developmental players. Recruiting is at a premium for the Rattler men. Because of sanctions brought on by poor academic performance in previous years the Rattler men lost two of their top players from last year’s team and are restricted from post season play. The Wildcats on the other hand could just as easily have lost in the same manner they won, but with an experienced team reflective of their best recruiting. One should note that this same Rattler team took the top team in the conference, the Hampton Pirates, into overtime before losing at their place.The Lady Rattlers controlled most of their game though they didn’t have a single player that could defend the Wildcat’s 6 foot 4-inch center. Due to injuries the Lady Rattlers have played much of this season with only 8 players on the bench. In fact, the Lady Rattlers are just beginning to benefit from recent successful recruiting and a revamped coaching staff. Now they are starting to look like the type of team Coach LeDawn Gibson envisioned when she first started her tenure at FAMU.
The Rattler athletic staff were on their game introducing a new VIP section, incorporating the Marching 100 at half time, adding post-game entertainment, and staging a basketball homecoming event that welcomed the likes of Al Lawson, whom the arena is named after and Rosa Hudgins, a Rattler Hall of Famer. During the game the Rattler cheerleaders, the pep band, and the student section were fully engaged in giving the men and women their full support. Most important were the number of people who attended that were not your usual die-hard fans.
The Lady Rattlers performed in front of a record crowd of 3,100, and by the time the men finished performing the crowd had reached 6,211. Back in the day when the Lady Rattlers were called the Rattlerettes, they regularly experienced large crowds. They even had their own Christmas tournament. Still, these crowds never reached 3,000. For the men, regardless of their record you could never get 6,000 into the nostalgic Gaither gymnasium, a place that has seen many legends perform.
It may be a while before a Rattler basketball game see’s those kind of numbers again, but it is good to know that the Rattler faithful are on call and ready to be entertained. It is also good to know that the FAMU Athletic Department is learning how to do it.