Monday, October 21, 2013

The football team at Grambling St. University refuses to play because of poor conditions

It’s about time it happened.  I’m not shocked.  Football players from Gambling State University refused to suit up and play this weekend.

Enough is enough.  Players are fed up with long trips on a bus, poor facility conditions and a tumultuous coaching situation.  They decided not to make the trip to play Jackson State University.

Way to go team.

It hurts that I happened at Grambling – the school Eddie Robinson coached 57 years on his way to becoming the second winningest coach in Division I (NCAA) history.  Robinson exposed the world to the gifted athletes playing on the campuses of historically black universities.  Robinson began coaching in 1941, long before black players were allowed to play for major college programs.  He retired in 1997 with a record of 408 wins, 15 losses, and 15 ties.

Robinson coached hundreds who played in the NFL.  Three –Willie Brown, Buck Buchanan and Willie Davis – are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Doug Williams is the first and only black quarterback to lead a team to a Super Bowl win.  Williams led the Washington Redskins in a 42-10 rout over John Elway and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

Williams returned home to succeed Robinson in 1998.  He resigned in 2002, after three Southwestern Conference titles from 2000-2002, to become a personal executive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team that drafted him in the first round in 1978.  Williams returned to Grambling in 2011 after serving as the General Manager of the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League. 

Williams was fired in September after a battle with administrator over mats in the weight room.

The program Robinson built deserves better than this. Williams deserves better than this, but, more than any of that, players deserve better than this.

On Thursday, the school relieved George Ragsdale of his duties as interim coach and replaced him with defensive coordinator Dennis "Dirt" Winston.  Winston was on the list of coaches the team is willing to accept as their coach.

Removing Ragsdale wasn’t enough to convince the team to get on the bus headed to play Jackson State.  They want to know why Williams was fired.

Before his termination, Williams had raised funds through an alumni group and purchased new mats for the weight room.  According to Sport’s Illustrated, the old mats presented safety hazards, but since the raised money had not gone through the school's foundation, the school president and athletic director ordered the new mats to be stored in another building.

Williams was fired a week later.

The letter from the players said they had to pay for their own Gatorade and poorly cleaned uniforms have contributed to several players suffering multiple cases of staph infection.

In the letter, players said the athletic complex "is in horrible condition, and has many hazards that may contribute to our overall health. First, the complex is filled with mildew and mold. Mildew and mold can be seen on the ceiling, walls and floor, and are contributing to water leaks because of faltering walls and ceilings."

Players rode on bus 750-miles to a neutral-site game in Indianapolis, reported that the team left campus at 6 p.m. on a Thursday and arrived in Indianapolis at 9 a.m. Friday. Grambling lost 48-0 to Alcorn State the next day. Alcorn State, based in Mississippi, flew to the game.  The game at Jackson State is a 160 mile trip from Grambling, La.

This is not what they agreed to when they signed a national letter of intent.  They enrolled at Grambling because it’s an HBCU with a rich legacy.  They came because of Robinson, Williams and the hundreds who played at Grambling. 

It’s a sickening story that is hard to report. Who should we blame - school administrators, the coaches, the players or the alumni.

I point the finger at all of us for failing our nation’s HBCU’s.  The problems with Grambling’s football team reflect a broader issue related to the financial stability of HBCU’s.

On June 2, Saint Paul’s College officials announced that it planned to close its doors.  After 125 years, the school in Lawrenceville, VA was forced to terminate 75 employees and tell students to seek an education at another school. Atlanta’s Morris Brown College is $35 million in debt and has been struggling to stay open for years. Morris Brown has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

A board member from Howard University wrote a letter presenting financial problems, and John Silvanus Wilson Jr., president of Morehouse College, shared his concerns with National Public Radio’s Michel Martin.

The problems at Grambling transcend football. HBCU’s aren’t making the revenue to stay afloat. The University of Texas football program made a profit of $68,830,484 last year. Louisiana State University, a school in the same state as Grambling, profited $43,253,286.

With all that money being made on college football, shouldn’t we be upset that players at Grambling have to buy their own Gatorade and ride a bus 750 miles a play?

It’s shameful.  It’s disgusting.  All of us should be appalled.

There’s an answer.

Where do I send the check?

No comments:

Post a Comment