Grambling State’s game against Jackson State this weekend has been forfeited. Grambling players didn’t board the buses to go to Jackson State Friday afternoon. Grambling was originally scheduled to leave at 2:30 p.m. CT but no players showed up. The school said the departure time had been pushed back to 3:30 p.m., but after that deadline, there were still no players in sight. At 3:50 p.m., the buses left the lot empty.
The players are unhappy with Pogue, the university’s facilities, transportation and the dismissal of coach Doug Williams, a Grambling alum and former Super Bowl winning quarterback with the Washington Redskins. A Sports Illustrated story published Friday detailed the dire financial situation at Grambling, which has seen drastic funding cuts over the past several years. Those cuts have affected the entire university, a historically black college in Louisiana. It’s where Eddie Robinson became a football coaching legend, amassing 408 wins in his 56 years as Grambling head coach.
Since 2007-08, overall state funding for Grambling has gone from $31.6 million to $13.8 million. The school has attempted to bridge that gap by increasing tuition, but it has fallen short, and cuts have been made across the board. Approximately 127 staff members have been laid off since 2008 and furloughs are common. Professors have also been asked to teach an extra class each year for free. Generally, the school has “cut to the bone,” says Leon Sanders, Grambling’s vice president for finance.
When he was coach at Grambling, Williams, with the help of donors, moved to get new flooring for the weight room, which is described in the SI piece as in need of serious repair. However, he did not go through the channels in which James and Pogue wanted him to to secure the funding, adding another layer to an already conflicted relationship. (If you have a few minutes, check out the entire Sports Illustrated story. This encompasses much more than the football team.)
Williams was fired in September after starting 0-2. The team went 1-10 last season and is currently 0-7. The tensions this week came to a boil on Tuesday, when players walked out of a meeting with James and Pogue and on Wednesday the team boycotted practice. Interim coach George Ragsdale, Williams’ replacement, was dismissed Thursday evening, and Dennis Winston was appointed head coach.