Takeaways from Tallahassee — Family affair

Blue Tally Takeaways (3)
Florida gets lawyers up to speed in family law.

Family affair

The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar will award dozens of scholarships ahead of the 2022 Marital & Family Law Board Certification Review Course.

The review course will be at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando on Jan. 21 and 22.

“I am proud of the Family Law Section’s efforts to not only deliver such an important course and content, but also make it more accessible to those who are interested in participating by doubling the number of scholarships available this year,” said Heather Apicella, chair of The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar.

Florida is helping lawyers get up to the minute in family law.

To apply for one of the 42 scholarships, an applicant must be a member in good standing with the Florida Bar and an active member of The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. The application deadline is Oct. 11 at 5 p.m.

In addition to scholarships, the Family Law Section will provide reference guides to course judges. These guides will provide judges access to law and recent law changes.

“Together, these efforts by the Family Law Section promote professionalism and practice, both of which are to the benefit of the practitioner and public,” the Section said in an announcement.

Led by a five-member executive committee, the Family Law Section aims to “promote the highest standards of professionalism and legal advocacy,” according to its mission statement. Divorce, relocation, adoption, modification actions, alimony, and child support are among the Section’s practice areas.

“The Section is dedicated to promoting professionalism and practice, and these scholarships will enable practitioners to gain a deep understanding of the critical course material in order to achieve the best results for their clients, as well as obtain the most up to date changes in the law,” Apicella added.

More information about the 2022 Marital & Family Law Review Course and scholarship applications are available online.


Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

DeSantis diagnosed with breast cancer — First Lady Casey DeSantis has been diagnosed with breast cancer. “As the mother of three young children, Casey is the centerpiece of our family and has made an impact on the lives of countless Floridians through her initiatives as First Lady,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. She received an outpouring of bipartisan support. Casey DeSantis, 41, is an Emmy award-winning former television host who has made promoting mental health central to her initiatives as First Lady. The First Family became the first since the 1970s to have young children when they moved into the Governor’s Mansion in 2019.

Education board votes to sanction more districts — Eight school districts face sanctions if they don’t reverse course on mask mandates. On Thursday, the State Board of Education found that the list of districts is violating the state mask mandate ban by requiring students to wear masks without parents to unilaterally opt them out from the mandates. “Districts are required to follow these policies,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran told the Board. “They can’t pick and choose which parts of the law they want to follow.” Alachua and Broward counties had previously been sanctioned. Those sanctions drew a standoff between the state and federal governments when the state docked school district board members’ pay. The federal government subsidized school districts to compensate, but the state further sanctioned districts in response.

Education Department asks feds for $2.3B in relief — Florida became the last state to submit its plan to draw down its remaining pot of federal school relief money, amounting to $2.3 billion. The Education Department submitted the plan two days after the U.S. Department of Education asked why Florida was the last holdout after missing a June 7 deadline. The plan proposes to boost reading and math programs and help students who want to learn a trade, and it acknowledges the challenges of the pandemic, encouraging mask use and devoting money to online learning. Democrats criticized DeSantis for Florida’s last-place distinction.

Fried: Masking reduced school outbreaks — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is imploring school districts to require masks for students after unveiling an analysis showing more COVID-19 cases in districts that don’t require masks. DeSantis and his administration have argued that mask mandates haven’t reduced the spread of COVID-19. That’s not what data compiled from the state’s school districts says, according to Fried. “Ron DeSantis is lying to you about masks in schools … In every single case, kids were better off in school districts that required masks than school districts that did not,” Fried said. The administration disputes how Fried’s office made its calculations, including that the three districts that required masks from the first day of school had 3.5 times fewer cases per student than districts that never required face coverings.

Feds target school board threats — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asked law enforcement to address the increasing number of threats targeting school board members, teachers and other employees in public schools, particularly around conversations about masking and critical race theory. DeSantis, who has opposed school mask mandates and railed against critical race theory, accused Garland of weaponizing the Department of Justice and using the FBI to intimidate parents. “Florida will defend the free speech rights of its citizens and will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent,” DeSantis said. Corcoran similarly criticized the feds. “We will not be strong-armed, nor will we allow others to be,” he said.

Robocalls rising

Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning Floridians of a staggering increase in robocalls.

Robocalls are up 16%, 450 million, from the same time last year. The Federal Communications Commission cites robocalls as the agency’s top consumer complaint.

Moody is working with attorneys general from across the country to fight back against illegal robocalls to protect Floridians from scams connected to calls.

“The pandemic changed the way we work, learn and socialize — further popularizing the tools we use to communicate remotely, including cellphones. With this rise in cellphone use, it is no surprise that we are seeing an increase in the number of robocalls targeting Floridians,” Moody said. “Please remain vigilant when receiving calls from unknown sources and never give personal or financial information in response to an unwanted solicitation.”

Ashley Moody gets hung up on the staggering number of robocalls.

The Attorney General recommends hanging up on robocalls and calling bank and utility providers directly if you receive an unexpected call from them. Never give personal or financial information to an unknown caller.

Moody had taken multiple actions against robocall scams since taking office in 2019, including in August, when she distributed nearly half a million dollars to nonprofits after shuttering an illegal charity telefunding operation.

Anyone who receives a robocall can file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s Office online at MyFloridaLegal.com or by calling 1 (866) 9NO-SCAM.

Manatee massacre

Fried requests that the federal government quickly label the West Indian manatee as an endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently conducting its five-year status review of the manatee’s classification. Despite opposition, Fish and Wildlife downlisted manatees from endangered to threatened in 2017 for the first time in 50 years, and Florida has seen a record-high 957 manatee deaths this year. More manatees died in the first four months of 2021 than in the entirety of 2020, reflecting a die-off Fried called “alarming.”

Is the West Indian manatee an endangered species? Nikki Fried says yes.

Risk factors that led the federal government to declare manatees endangered in 1967 — like their degrading habitat, climate change, pollution, speeding boats and seagrass loss — remain.

“These continued risks have unfortunately been realized, particularly as it pertains to seagrass loss and declining water quality, which have been widely attributed to the record number of manatee deaths being reported in Florida,” Fried said.

Last week, FWS declared 23 species extinct, and Fried wants manatees, which are native to the Sunshine State, to avoid a similar fate.

“There are few things more quintessentially Florida than the manatee, which is why it is absolutely vital that every step to protect these treasured creatures is taken immediately, restoring its status as an endangered species,” Fried said.

Safety sounds

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis spent Fire Prevention Week educating Floridians about smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

With an annual theme of “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety!” Patronis urged Floridians to understand distinctions between a smoke and a carbon monoxide alarm.

“Knowing what to do when an alarm sounds can mean the difference between a safe escape — and a tragedy,” Patronis said. “It’s important for you and your family to prepare now so you can prevent fire-related tragedies in the future. Stay fire safe, Florida!”

In a news release, Patronis provided several fire safety tips and recommendations. Among them, he encouraged Floridians to install a smoke alarm in every bedroom.

He also urged residents to draft a home fire escape plan. A fire alarm, he notes, sounds off every 23 seconds in the nation.

“Draw a map of your home showing all doors and windows and know at least two ways out of every room,” Patronis said. “Discuss the plan regularly with your family.”

Patronis, in September, sponsored a resolution encouraging Floridians to participate and support public safety activities and efforts of Florida’s fire and emergency services.

The resolution also recognized Oct. 3 — 9 as Fire Prevention Week.

To watch Patronis’ fire safety reminder, click on the image below:

Treasure hunt

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis returned more than $28 million in unclaimed property to Floridians throughout.

Unclaimed property is a lost or uncollected financial asset in the state’s possession. It can take many forms, including dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, inheritances, and even refunds.

Since taking office in 2017, the state returned more than $1.4 billion in unclaimed property under Patronis’ leadership. He encouraged all Floridians to search for unclaimed in their names or the name of a loved one.

Jimmy Patronis takes Floridians on a treasure hunt.

“We had a great month of returns in September with more than $28 million going back into the pockets of Floridians,” Patronis said. “As the holidays are quickly approaching, now is a great time to check to see if you or a loved one has funds waiting to be claimed.”

Over the years, celebrities and politicians, including former President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former MLB star Derek Jeter have been among those listed in the unclaimed property log.

Patronis said there’s a one in five chance Floridians have unclaimed property belong to them or a loved one.

“It only takes a few minutes to search for unclaimed property, and I encourage individuals and business owners to search today at FLTreasureHunt.gov,” Patronis added. “It’s your money; claim it now!”

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

NICA Board of Directors Patronis on Wednesday appointed Dr. Narendra Dereddy to the Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association Board of Directors to serve as a representative of hospitals. Dereddy is the medical director for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the medical director for Care Transformation and the medical director of Neonatology at AdventHealth. Patronis said: “His years in the medical community, and extensive neonatology experience will be a tremendous addition to helping these children.” He attended medical school at Banaras Hindu University in India and completed his residency and fellowship at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center at New York Medical College. His appointment is effective immediately and expires on Aug. 31, 2024.

Florida Citrus Commission DeSantis has appointed Carlos Martinez, Christopher Groom, Jon Smoak, Martin McKenna, Steve Johnson, Daniel Sutton and William Poulton to the Florida Citrus Commission. Martinez, of Orlando, is procurement manager for The Coca-Cola Co. Martinez earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Central Florida and master’s degree in Christian theology from St. Leo University. Groom, of Orlando, is COO for Florida’s Natural Growers. Groom earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University and master’s degree in international business from the University of South Carolina. Smoak, of Lake Placid, is the CEO of Smoak Groves. Smoak earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida. McKenna, of Sebring, is the president and owner of McKenna and Associates Citrus and a past chair of the Florida Department of Citrus. McKenna earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Florida. Johnson, of Wauchula, is president and owner of Johnson Citrus Harvesting. He earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural operations management from the University of Florida. Sutton, of LaBelle, is president and general manager of Alico. He earned his bachelor’s degree in citrus business from Florida Southern College. Poulton, of Bradenton, is senior director of global procurement for Tropicana Products. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Duke University.

Jefferson County Supervisor of Elections — DeSantis appointed Justin “Tyler” McNeil as Jefferson County Supervisor of Elections. McNeil, of Monticello, is the Chief Deputy Clerk of Court in the Jefferson County Clerk of Court’s office, where he also serves as the Director of Human Resources. He is chair of the Aucilla Christian Academy Board of Directors, vice president of the Jefferson County Teachers Credit Union Board of Directors and a Board Member for Jefferson County Youth Outreach. McNeil earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature from Florida State University.

Manatee-Sarasota District Board of Trustees — On Friday, the Governor appointed Michael Fuller, Taylor Collins and Dominic DiMaio to the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota District Board of Trustees. Fuller, of Bradenton, is a financial adviser and managing partner of Weichel Fuller Financial. Fuller earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Georgia. Collins, of Sarasota, is president of Benefits & Planning, Inc. Collins earned her bachelor’s degree in risk management from Florida State University. DiMaio, of Lakewood Ranch, is president and CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance. DiMaio earned his bachelor’s degree and Master of Business Administration from Widener University.

Santa Fe College District Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Carrie Lee, Emery Gainey, Lisa Prevatt and Robert Woody to the Santa Fe College District Board of Trustees. Lee, of Alachua, is the president and owner of Florida Blue Farms and a former commissioner on the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in religious education from Loyola University of New Orleans. Gainey, of Gainesville, is the former Sheriff of Marion County and a former Chief of Staff to Attorney General Moody. He earned his associate degree from Santa Fe College and bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Florida. Prevatt, of Hampton, is principal of Bradford County Public School’s Lawtey Elementary School. She earned her associate degree in medical technology from Santa Fe College, bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of North Florida and master’s degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Woody, of Gainesville, is the former Director of the Alachua County Jail. A former member of the FAMU Board of Trustees, Woody earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the New York State University at Oneonta and master’s degree in criminal justice from Rollins College.

Safety first

When road crews are on the job, traffic slows to a crawl. There’s an award for that, and the Florida Department of Transportation won one.

FDOT was one of seven state or local transportation departments to land a National Roadway Safety Award.

The biennial awards program is sponsored jointly by the Federal Highway Administration and the Roadway Safety Foundation. First presented in 1999, the awards recognize roadway safety achievements that move the nation toward zero deaths and serious injuries on U.S. roadways.

Bad traffic? The feds have an award for that.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg praised FDOT and other winners for the “remarkable work they’ve done to protect the traveling public. They are proof that we have no shortage of willpower or good ideas for improving roadway safety.”

According to a news release, FDOT won its award “for the successful use of advanced technologies to improve safety in arterial roadway work zones, demonstrably slowing down drivers and improving driver behavior.”

The department also received an Honorable Mention for its successful transition from in-person training to online webinars educating Florida’s transportation workforce on a wide variety of roadway safety issues.

“These awards are an incredible honor and an example of FDOT’s unwavering commitment to the development of innovative solutions for safer roadways,” FDOT Secretary Kevin J. Thibault said. “FDOT will continue to celebrate the innovations and achievements of our staff and prioritize ways to make Florida’s roadway infrastructure safer and more efficient for years to come.”

FDLE lifeguards

Department of Law Enforcement agents have arrested pool contractors in Fort Pierce, accusing them of a scheme to defraud homeowners by accepting large deposits to build residential swimming pools but never completing the projects.

Agents say Brian and Chrystal Washburn, of Amore’ Pools, swiped $2 million from hundreds of victims. Upon receiving deposit checks from homeowners, the Washburns used a third-party check cashing store to convert the checks into cash in an attempt to conceal the illicit funds.

Warning! Don’t buy a pool from these two.

“We will make sure these defendants are held accountable for their criminal actions,” Moody said.

Patronis committed himself to crack down on criminals defrauding Floridians.

“These Floridians worked tirelessly to save for a swimming pool for their family to enjoy, only to have their hard-earned money stolen and their property damaged,” Patronis said.

After signing a contract, agents say victims were asked to pay a 25% deposit. In some cases, projects were abandoned before work started, but other times the Washburns dug large holes in the victims’ backyards with dangerous debris piles around the project site.

The scheme hit homeowners in Brevard, Indian River, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. The overwhelming majority of pools were never completed.

“I appreciate the long hours and hard work by our FDLE agents, analysts and partners to stop this scheme and save other homeowners from being victimized,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said.

The Washburn are charged with false information on an application for contractor’s license, working as an unlicensed contractor, organized scheme to defraud, identity theft, money laundering, concealing information to avoid workers’ compensation premiums and insurance application fraud.

Signing bonus

The Florida Department of Corrections is offering $1,000 bonuses to newly certified correctional officers at select Florida institutions.

All training is provided, and no experience is necessary to apply.

During training and academy, noncertified officers receive a salary and benefits, including health insurance. Additional benefits like a biannual uniform allowance, state college tuition waivers and criminal justice incentive pay become available after certification.

Wanna work in a prison? No experience is necessary, and you get an extra grand.

Florida’s prisons suffer from staffing shortages, and some prisons could shutter as a result. The bonuses are an incentive to help hire more guards at 44 correctional institutions, state prisons and medical centers.

For every 200 new hires, 400 leave a month. That exodus comes with a massive price tag. Taxpayers spent more than $103 million on overtime in FY 2020-2021, while the state prisons proceeded with “critical posts” remaining undermanned.

While the department advertises the pay as “competitive,” Deputy Secretary Ricky Dixon last month told lawmakers that the roughly $16 an hour is too low and uncompetitive. Many probation officers also work restaurant jobs to earn a living wage.

The agency will seek to raise starting pay to over $41,000 in the upcoming Legislative Session. The move, he added, may slow the migration of state prison employees to other higher-paying agencies.

And the winners are …

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s annual Lionfish Challenge has come to a close. Now it’s time to dole out the prizes.

FWC said 471 people registered for the 2021 challenge and 185 anglers — 172 recreational and 13 commercial — submitted lionfish during the annual removal incentive program, the highest participation number since the challenge began in 2016.

Brooks Feeser of Palm Beach County took the No. 1 spot in the recreational category, removing 1,632 lionfish. Carl Antonik of Santa Rosa County was a hair behind at 1,582, while Christina Raber-Jehn, also of Palm Beach County, came in third with 1,475.

Go fish: Florida’s big winners in the annual Lionfish hunt.

The Commercial Champion was Rachel Bowman of Monroe County, who netted 730 pounds. Escambia County resident Paul DeCuir was only 5 pounds off the mark, while Alex Fogg of Okaloosa County took third with 657 pounds removed.

Feeser and Bowman received a customized trophy, $150 for SCUBA air fills and an HP 100 SCUBA cylinder. They will also be featured in the 2021 Saltwater Regulations publication and the FWC Lionfish Hall of Fame.

Challenge participants removed a combined 21,146 lionfish from state waters during the May through September event.

The venomous saltwater fish are native to the Pacific, but they’ve been abundant in Florida waters ever since the mid-1990s when Hurricane Andrew flung a handful of very prolific aquarium specimens into the ocean.

Lionfish are considered a delicacy to some, and for the most part, FWC would be happy if those people treated Florida waters like an all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s no bag limit, and harvesters don’t need a license.

New and improved

Drivers sporting a Florida Gulf Coast University license plate might want to make a pit stop at the tax collector’s office.

This week, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles announced that the FGCU license plate was redesigned and is now available at all tax collector offices and license plate agencies across the state.

The Florida Gulf Coast University specialty license plate was enacted by the Florida Legislature in 1996. This is the first redesign of the plate.

FGCU wants you to slap a plate on it.

According to FLHSMV, there were 1,673 FGCU tags in the wild before it received the quadricentennial refresh.

Where the old tag featured a subdued Azul eagle with wings up, the new one is emblazoned with the fierce version with which fans have become familiar.

The university namesake is still printed at the bottom of the tag, but the font no longer screams 90s — a crisp sans serif has replaced it.

The department advised Dunk City fans to peruse an online list of locations where they can pick up the new tag. Newbies should be prepared to shell out $25 a year for the plate — the fee money heads to the university for academic enhancement, including scholarships.


Record-breaking magnet

The National Science Foundation has granted $15.8 million to the National MagLab at Florida State University to design the world’s most powerful superconducting magnet.

The High Magnetic Field Laboratory will design a new 40-tesla magnet requiring high-temperature superconductors, cutting-edge materials that allow electrons to nearly perfectly flow at higher temperatures than previous low-temperature superconductors.

Not your average refrigerator magnet.

“This project is a fantastic example of how science works on the edge of our understanding: engineers will design a new instrument that has never been built before that holds the promise to become a state-of-the-art tool for physicists to answer outstanding research questions about the mysteries of quantum materials,” MagLab Director Greg Boebinger said. “Our user community is excited about the virtually limitless time at peak field and low noise environment this future magnet, once constructed, would provide to advance their research goals.”

The grant funds design work through 2026 and is part of the National Science Foundation’s Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure 1 Program, special funding that supports the design efforts for compelling projects that meet a scientific need and enable American researchers to remain competitive in a global research environment.

“U.S. researchers need cutting-edge tools to stay at the forefront of science and technology,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said. “NSF is committed to filling this mid-scale space in the American scientific research infrastructure by investing in research facilities and instrumentation that advance next-generation discoveries.”

Why We Serve

The Institute of Politics at Florida State University continued its “Why We Serve” video series this week with an episode starring House Democratic Co-Leader Evan Jenne.

The series features Florida elected officials explaining, in their own words, some of the reasons they got involved in government and what keeps them engaged during their time in office. For Jenne, it’s the opportunity to help constituents solve real-world problems.

“Knowing that somebody came into my office, called my office, or emailed my office with a problem that was going to hinder them from becoming everything they could be is hands down, my favorite thing,” he said. “When we’re in Session, my absolute favorite thing is doing my best to leave the state a little better than I found it.”

Jenne is the third Florida lawmaker to sit down for an interview with IOP@FSU for the student-led project to connect young leaders with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Previous installments in the series feature Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer and Republican Sen. Joe Gruters.

Tim Chapin, the dean of FSU’s College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, said it was an honor to have Jenne participate.

“As a distinguished legislator in the Florida House of Representatives — and an FSU alumnus — we appreciate him sharing his views on the value of promoting bipartisanship and civil discourse in the Sunshine State.”

The new episode debuts alongside the launch of IOP@FSU’s flagship speaker series, “Strengthening American Democracy.” First on the agenda was Christina Reynolds, the vice president of communications for EMILY’s List.

Information on future events and an archive of past “Why We Serve” episodes are available on IOP@FSU’s website.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

EMT of the Year

The Health Department has named Lee Kendall of Leon County the Florida EMT of the Year.

Kendall, who joined Leon County EMS in 2017, is actively involved in community education events and risk reduction programs.

“Since 2017, Leon County has trained nearly 7,200 citizens in CPR and AED usage thanks to dedicated EMTs like Lee Kendall,” Leon County Commission Chair Rick Minor said. “This statewide award recognizes outstanding EMS team members for not only responding to crises but also for their leadership in long-term initiatives to make their community safer and more prepared.”

The department has recognized paramedics, 911 telecommunicators and EMTs with EMS awards for more than a quarter-century.

Congrats to Lee Kendall, a true Florida Hero.

Lee is also a member of the Peer Support team and coordinates fundraising efforts for Leon County EMS.

“Lee is an integral member of our team and serves as an exemplary EMT, colleague and friend,” said Leon County EMS Director Chief Chad Abrams. “He is truly motivated by the desire to educate our community on ways to be prepared for medical emergencies and to help those in need when they call.”

Lee is currently involved in the LCEMS Professional Development Program and is studying to further his career as a paramedic. The program helps members progress through seven levels of education, training, and experience to advance from an entry-level EMT to a Charge Paramedic.

Firefighter remembered

The Tallahassee Fire Department is mourning the death of Lieutenant Sarah Cooksey, who died on Sunday in an off-duty accident.

The department remembered Cooksey as a committed public servant. She founded the Tallahassee chapter of the nonprofit Pink Heals to support cancer patients and their families.

“Following Lieutenant Cooksey’s tragic death, we have seen an incredible outpouring of support, a testament to the positive impact she had in Tallahassee and beyond,” Chief Jerome Gaines said. “We are forever grateful for her service, with TFD and as an outstanding member of our community. She supported so many during their most difficult times, and we pray now for comfort and peace for her family, friends, our department and the community.”

RIP to Sarah Cooksey, a well-respected public servant in Tallahassee.

Cooksey began her public service young. At 14, she became an explorer with Clay County Fire Rescue in Green Cove Springs. She later went to EMT school, completed her fire certification and joined the City of Tallahassee in 2002. In 2021, she became TFD’s Public Information Officer.

The department asked the public to respect the privacy of her family and friends.

Her service will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, at City Church in Tallahassee.

Why not us?

Can’t get enough FAMU football? Then it might be time to sign up for ESPN+.

The team is set to star in an eight-episode docuseries executive produced by NBA All-Star Chris Paul and produced by ESPN+, Roadside Entertainment, and Paul’s Ohh Dip!!! Productions. The first episode drops on Oct. 14, exclusively on the streaming service.

“Why Not Us: FAMU Football” will cover the 2021 team and head coach Willie Simmons from the start of fall camp through the end of the season.

Willie Simmons gets the star treatment.

“We are honored and proud to partner with Chris Paul and ESPN+ to amplify our Athletics program as the front porch to America’s No. 1 public HBCU. Our program has a rich tradition of excellence and will provide the world a front-row seat into a great institution and access to some of the most exceptional student-athletes, coaches, and staff in the country. Why Not Us?” said FAMU Vice President and Athletic Director Kortne Gosha.

Simmons added, “Those of us who have either worked, attended or played here know how special this place is, and we’re elated that the masses will finally get a chance to experience life on the Highest of Seven Hills.”

In addition to chronicling the 2021 season, the show will give viewers an inside look at what it’s like to be a student-athlete at FAMU and of the renovations at historic Bragg Memorial Stadium.

Those looking to brush up on Rattler football history can also expect to learn about the late great Jake Gaither, who has one of the all-time winning percentages in college football (84%), the 1978 National Championship team, the Florida A&M Marching 100, and more.

Paul said the series “will continue to highlight the importance of HBCUs including their challenges and triumphs. The achievements of athletes at HBCUs do not receive the level of recognition that they deserve. Why Not Us will chronicle the Florida A&M football team and shine a spotlight on these extraordinary athletes while inspiring audiences with their incredible journey of resilience in the face of adversity.”

Capitol Directions

Staff Reports


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