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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

It’s a Wrap: Alabama A&M University Will Not Pursue Collection of Its $527,280,064 Debt from the State of Alabama

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on January 5, 2024

An Editorial Opinion


Yesterday, I confirmed that Alabama A&M University will not pursue the collection of its $527,280,064 debt from the state of Alabama. 

Public notice of this debt was provided to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey in a September 18, 2023, letter from the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture.


When Alabama A&M President Daniel K. Wims learned of this letter, he promptly notified the governor’s office that his university would take no action to collect this debt.

Publicly, neither Wims, nor his board of trustees, has said a word about this $527,280,064 debt. Privately, they are running from Alabama A&M's entitlement to this money.


Gov. Ivey and her staff were stunned by the news that Alabama A&M would not be pursuing the collection of this debt.  They never thought Alabama A&M would surrender its entitlement to $527,280,064 without a fight. 


Gov. Ivey and her staff waited 10 days before she responded to the September 18, 2023, letters evidencing the debt.  They honestly thought Alabama A&M's board of trustees might feel a fiduciary duty to pursue and collect this money on behalf of the university and its faculty, staff, and students.

As it turned out, the board of trustees was only interested in pleasing Gov. Ivey. After all, Ivey is the statutory "President" of Alabama A&M's board of trustees. She is also the state official who appoints/reappoints trustees to the board.

To Gov. Ivey's surprise, no Black state legislator, no Black candidate running for Congress, and no Black elected or appointed official in the state has uttered a public word about this $527,280,064 debt. All of these officials have avoided this subject like it is a plague.


Inside the State Capitol and Legislature, the collective silence of Black public officials on the subject of this $527,280,064 debt is seen as a testament to the sway that Gov. Ivey holds over Alabama A&M and Black public officials.  Ivey's dominion and control over this cadre of Black Alabamians is unlike anything white public officials have seen in the state since the days of slavery.


In lieu of pursuing the collection of its $527,280,064 debt, President Wims, his allies on the board of trustees, and university attorneys have spent countless hours trying to figure out who is leaking information to my news team about their unprecedented display of cowardice. They also unleashed a couple of paid "hustlers" in an unsuccessful campaign to attack my name and character on social media.   Finally, they threatened me with a “Cease and Desist” letter, which I ignored.


President Wims privately acknowledges that Alabama A&M is owed this $527,280,064 debt.  However, Wims has told his supporters that going after the money would somehow “hurt” the university.


The stunning display of cowardice by President Wims and his board of trustees has surpassed anything that my confidential news sources have ever seen in a state agency. My sources simply could not believe that a deserving HBCU in Alabama would lay down on this $527,280,064 legal claim without a fight.  


In the HWCU world, there would have been a “battle royale” over the collection of this $527,280,064 debt.


Alabama A&M's Lost Two Staggering Financial Opportunities in 2023

From September 18 to December 31, 2023, Alabama A&M lost two staggering financial opportunities.

First, Alabama A&M executed a new four-year Magic City Classic agreement in October that allowed the event's promoters and marketers to gouge millions of dollars in economic value from this event.  The main promoter, Gene Hallman of Eventive Sports, promptly sold his company to Arizona-based Troon after the new contract was signed.

Alabama State is being gouged under the new agreement, as well.


Second, Alabama A&M has convinced itself that the university is better off (a) begging prospective donors for financial contributions and (b) collecting unpaid student debt, rather than pursuing the collection of its $527,280,064 debt from the state


Unlike Alabama A&M, Alabama State never received a letter from the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture stating that it was owed money from the state.  Only Alabama A&M held the legal right to pursue this $527,280,064 payment from the state of Alabama.


For the record, the primary news sources for my articles on Alabama A&M’s failure to collect its $527,280,064 debt are: (a) publicly available documents and (b) individuals within state government who are in a position to know what's going on with this situation.  Among the news sources in Montgomery, a total and complete lack of respect for Alabama A&M’s weak and compromised president and board of trustees kept the “insider” information flowing to my news team.

It's a wrap for Alabama A&M University. The institution will not collect a dime of this $527,280,064 as a result of its own efforts.

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