Florida A&M Board Of Trustees Approves Facility Name Changes For Football Field, Softball Field, And Football Locker Room

TALLAHASSEE — Florida A&M’s Vice President and Director of Athletics Tiffani-Dawn Sykes recommended name changes to the football field, softball field, and football locker room earlier this year and was unanimously approved Thursday, June 8, at the FAMU Board of Trustees meeting.

“Many Rattlers know about the impact that these three individuals have had on Florida A&M University,” said Sykes. “Now, everyone who enters these facilities will know too. I’m thrilled that President Robinson, the University Naming Committee, and ultimately the Board of Trustees approved these recommendations so that their legacies will live forever on the Highest of Seven Hills.”

Ken Riley Field at Bragg Memorial Stadium

The football field will be Ken Riley Field at Bragg Memorial Stadium. Riley is the only person to compete as a football student-athlete and serve as head football coach and athletics director in FAMU history. Riley will be posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August 2023.

Riley is one of the many storied Rattlers as he succeeded on the playing field as a player and coach, in the classroom, and at the administrative level. As a student-athlete, Riley quarterbacked the offense for legendary Alonzo “Jake” Gaither to a 23-7 record and three Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) championships. Riley also excelled in the classroom as he was a Rhodes Scholarship candidate.

Following playing at Florida A&M, Riley was selected in the sixth round of the 1969 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. After playing quarterback for the Rattlers, hall of fame head coach Paul Brown moved Riley to cornerback, which Riley would prove to be one of the best in history. In 15 seasons, Riley finished his career with 65 interceptions, which is the fifth most all-time. Riley was always consistent, having recorded at least one interception every season and had a career-high nine interceptions in 1976. Riley took five of those 65 interceptions to the house for six and recovered 18 fumbles. Riley was part of five playoff teams, made three interceptions in seven games, and started in Super Bowl XVI, in which he recorded four tackles. Riley was also named to the First Team All-Pro once and Second Team twice.

After retiring in 1983, Riley joined the Green Bay Packers as an assistant coach for two seasons before returning to the Highest of Seven Hills as the head football coach. He took over head coaching duties at his alma mater in 1986, and an eight-year stint featured two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championships and a pair of MEAC Coach of the Year honors. Following his time as head coach, Riley transitioned to the administrative side of athletics serving as the athletic director from 1994-2003.

His esteemed career garnered inductions into the FAMU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1982, the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2015, and the Cincinnati Bengals’ inaugural Ring of Honor in 2021.

Veronica Wiggins Softball Field

The softball field will be named after legendary softball coach Veronica Wiggins. Wiggins is the winningest coach in FAMU Athletics history, with 726 wins in 29 seasons. Wiggins took over the Rattlers softball program in 1992 and coached the team to their first winning season in her second season with a 33-25 record and the program’s first MEAC Championship. The ’93 team was also the MEAC’s first softball champion.

Wiggins and the Rattlers would dominate the MEAC in the 1990s, winning six of the first seven MEAC Championships (’93, ’94, ’95, ’97, ’98, ’99). Wiggins coached the Rattlers to seven more MEAC Championships in the 2000s (’05, ’06, ’09, ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17) for a total of 13 MEAC Championships.

Wiggins also coached the Rattlers to 12 30+ win seasons and two 40+ win seasons. The 1997 team holds the program record for most wins in a season with 43. Wiggins also led the Rattlers to eight NCAA Regionals (’99, ’05, ’06, ’09, ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17), and they won one NCAA Regional game in 2006 versus Mississippi Valley State, winning 7-5 in the Tuscaloosa Regional.

Wiggins has been named MEAC Coach of the Year five times (’93, ’97, ’98, ’06, ’17) and inducted into the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and the MEAC Sports Hall of Fame in 2022.

Wiggins continues to support FAMU Softball, serving as a mentor to Coach Patterson and coming to games.

George “Godfather” Thompson Locker Room

The football locker room will be named the George “Godfather” Thompson locker room. Thompson played football for the Rattlers as a running back and defensive back in the early 1950s and graduated from FAMU in 1954 with a degree in Physical Education and Health.

Thompson was a close confidant of FAMU’s legendary coach Jake Gaither, who hired him as an equipment manager in 1954, and he worked at FAMU for 49 years until 2003. Thompson led a successful fundraising campaign in 2019 to replace the football team lockers and the renovations were completed in the summer of 2021.

Thompson was inducted into the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 as a contributor/supporter.

There will be ceremonies to celebrate the naming of these facilities at a later date, as determined in conjunction with the honorees and their families.

The naming of these facilities was completed through the FAMU Board of Trustees Honorary Naming Process. This includes the VP/AD’s recommendation to the University President, the President’s approval and recommendation to the University Naming Committee, and finally, the Naming Committee’s approval and recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees awards have final approval.

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