Florida A&M college football to play season opener at North Carolina despite missing 25 players due to eligibility issues

Florida A&M will be without 25 ineligible players and down to only seven available offensive linemen when it plays at North Carolina on Saturday night, Rattlers coach Willie Simmons told ESPN on Saturday.

In a statement released Friday, Simmons said the team initially decided not to play after learning Thursday night that seven offensive linemen were deemed ineligible. With three others nursing injuries, the Rattlers have just seven healthy offensive linemen.

But after further discussion Friday, the team ultimately decided to play the game and flew from Florida to North Carolina for the season opener for both teams (8:15 p.m. ET, ACC Network).

"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!"

Linebacker Isaiah Land, who won the Buck Buchanan Award as the FCS defensive player of the year, is among the 25 players not eligible for the UNC game, a FAMU spokesman told ESPN's Pete Thamel on Saturday. He led FCS last season with 19 sacks and turned down a host of high-profile transfer opportunities.

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.