Florida A&M college football to play season opener at North Carolina despite missing 20 players due to eligibility issues

Florida A&M will be without 20 ineligible players and down to only seven available offensive linemen when it plays at North Carolina on Saturday night, the school said Friday.

Spokesman Josh Padilla said a variety of academic-related issues with players have left the Rattlers short-handed, but the team was preparing to head to the airport for the flight from Tallahassee, Florida, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina for Saturday night’s game (8:15 p.m., ACC Network).

In a statement, Rattlers coach Willie Simmons said the team decided not to play after learning on Thursday night that seven offensive linemen were deemed ineligible. With three others nursing injury, the Rattlers have just seven healthy offensive linemen. After further discussion on Friday, the team ultimately decided to play the game.

“The players didn’t feel comfortable playing under those conditions and they are all understandably frustrated with many of our internal processes in the certification process, so they decided not to play,” Simmons’ statement said. “After a few more discussions with university leadership, including the president of the university, the players ultimately decided to play the game. I support these young men 100% in whatever they decide and I’m extremely proud of them for advocating for themselves!”

Florida A&M is scheduled to receive a $450,000 guarantee for playing the game, which is part of a celebration of Historically Black Colleges and Universities this week on the UNC campus.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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