February 04, 2021

The First NCAA Division I-AA National Champions

Presented By KIA | MABRA LAW


Our historian and curator Jeremy Swick virtually sat down with the quarterback who led the Rattlers to their historic win, Albert Chester.

In 1978, the NCAA introduced a playoff to Division I-AA (now known as the FCS). Led by fifth year head coach, and 2021 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Rudy Hubbard.  The 1978 FAMU Rattlers went 12-1. Statistical leaders for the 1978 season included QB Albert Chester with 1,088 yards passing, RB Ike Williams with 1,274 yards rushing, WR Chris Douglas with 228 yards receiving, and Mike Solomon 12 TDs. 

FAMU finished 9-1 in the regular season with their sole blemish coming from Tennessee State in a 24-21 defeat. With a 31-7 victory over Grambling State in the now defunct Orange Blossom Classic, the Rattlers secured a spot in the newly formed NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship, where they would beat the University of Massachusetts 35-28.

The First NCAA Division I-AA National Champions

Michael Solomon (25) rushes for the game-clinching touchdown in the 1978 NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game) (Photo: FAMU)

At kickoff  of the championship game there was a strong wind. The wind was a factor as FAMU’s punter, Sammy Knight, punted six times for only 45 total yards. Two punts were also blocked. UMass jumped to an early lead 6-0 on two field goals. FAMU led at halftime 14-6. The Minutemen of Massachusetts returned fire and took the lead twice in the second half. However, two fourth quarter touchdowns by fullback Mike Solomon helped secure the Rattlers historic victory.o

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