January 1, 2024 — The new year marks both beginnings and farewells and for the Florida A&M University (FAMU) football program, it's a moment of transition as head coach Willie Simmons announced his resignation. After six seasons at the helm, Simmons, who led the Rattlers to a stellar 12-1 record and a Celebration Bowl championship this season, is embarking on a new journey as the running backs coach at Duke.
Simmons, 43, leaves behind an impressive legacy, boasting an overall record of 45-13 during his tenure at FAMU. His decision to depart came after weighing offers from both Duke and FAMU over the weekend. Ultimately, he chose to reunite with new Duke head coach Manny Diaz, with whom he had previously worked at Middle Tennessee.
In a virtual press conference on New Year's Day, FAMU Athletic Director Tiffani-Dawn Sykes confirmed Simmons's departure and announced that Cornerbacks Coach James Colzie III would serve as the interim head coach. At the same time, the program begins its search for a new leader.
Simmons's impact on FAMU was profound, culminating in the program's first SWAC Championship and Celebration Bowl victory this season. He was also recognized as the regional coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association for the second consecutive year.
Expressing his gratitude, Simmons acknowledged the coaching and support staff he had the privilege to work with during his time at FAMU. He said, "Thank you. It doesn't seem fitting to express my sincere gratitude to the coaching and support staff (former and current) that I've been blessed to work with during my time here."
FAMU President Larry Robinson recognized Simmons's contribution to the university's athletic success in 2023, calling it one of the best years in the history of FAMU. He extended his best wishes to Simmons and his family on their new journey.
In a statement, Robinson said, "We wish Coach Simmons and his family well as they move on." He also thanked those who supported the coaching salary, emphasizing the collaborative effort that ensured FAMU could compete with the offer made to Coach Simmons.
In a note shared on social media, Simmons expressed excitement for the future of the FAMU football program. Despite the farewell, he assured that he and his wife would continue to be fervent supporters of the team, signifying that their ties to the Rattlers run deep.
As the FAMU football program enters a new chapter, the impact of Coach Willie Simmons will undoubtedly be felt for years to come. The search for a new head coach commences, and the Rattlers will aim to build upon the foundation laid by Simmons, with aspirations of continued success on and off the field. 🏈🐍
This is Dez Barnes of Pretty Girls Love Sports, a journalist on the MTMV Sports platform. She is a retired US Army veteran, professional cheerleader, pet mom, and avid sports lover. Feel free to follow her writings as she dives into the latest sports news! You can find her on all social media channels @PGLOVESPORTS.