As the Southwestern Athletic Conference distributed fines to Grambling State University, some students, alumni, administrators and supporters are outraged about the assessed punishment. Grambling State has appealed the decision by the SWAC office “making it quite clear why we think the fine and game decisions are excessive.”
On Wednesday, in a press release, SWAC stated Grambling State, in addition to a $50,000 fine, would be required to travel to Jackson, Miss. for the next three contests against Jackson State University.
“This is not a surprise at all,” said Aaron James, the university’s athletic director. “We’re been working with our conference and our friends at Jackson State, so we knew this was coming.
“The conference ruling would mean that Grambling State University would have to pay as much as $305,000 once this $50,000 fine and travel cost at about $41,000 per trip to Jackson and related expenses are included. That’s completely unacceptable.”
Grambling football has had a strenuous season with the firing of head coach Doug Williams, after a 0-2 start. Then on Oct. 15, after a heated meeting with university officials, many players stormed out and refused to practice or travel to the game against Jackson State University on Oct. 19.
The players’ strike brought tons of media attention that highlighted inadequate facilities, equipment and supplements. In addition, they argued they were mistreated and lacked support from the university.
“I can’t blame the football team for what they did,” said Russel Simms, senior accounting and management major from New Orleans. “They got their point across,” he continued but believes the G-Men could have acted more “tactical and professional.”
Many agree with Simms since Grambling is in a financial emergency. Back in September, President Frank G. Pogue announced that Grambling State received major another budget cut from the state government. The university’s state funding has been cut from $31 million to $13 million, a 56 percent cut, in nearly six years. With the football team’s actions, the university will have to make payments to SWAC and Jackson State.
“I know Jackson State University lost a lot of money,but I think that is asking too much money from a school in financial situation such as ours,” said Ora Evans, a 1959 Grambling graduate who is also the president of the Bastrop Alumni Chapter.
“Neither our president nor I have done anything to abdicate our responsibilities and our commitments and there are no grounds for such ruling,” said James. “We support the rights of our students to voice their opinion, but the university was not responsible for our inability to field a team to travel to Mississippi. Their actions pale in comparison to the overwhelming severe penalties imposed by the conference.”
The game the G-Men forfeited was Jackson State’s homecoming. According to JSU’s public relations office, their losses calculated at just above $600,000.
“We’re still issuing some refunds,” said Jean Cook, the senior editor of public relations. “Once those are fulfilled, we expect to have refunded $155,000 in tickets.”
Jackson State, however, gave ticket buyers an option to donate their ticker purchases to the JSU Development Foundation. For their homecoming game, the football team played an intrasquad scrimmage and the Sonic Boom of the South marching band played for an extended performance. Lyfe Jennings, Terrell C. Moses and Larry Johnson performed a free concert at the stadium, according to Cook.
One of the G-Men’s main concerns was their lack of satisfactory facilities. Rubber Flooring Systems, a company located in Kemah, Texas, completed the needed repairs to the athletic weight room’s floor. The installation took four days and was completed on Nov. 3. The university stresses that weight room is used by multiple sports, not just football.
“We like coming to the main weight room because it offers more and better equipment including bench, squats, and other free weights,” said Stephone Leaks a senior criminal justice major from Houston and member of Grambling State’s track and field team.
GSU has received calls from multiple companies requesting to provide assistance to the student-athletes. Muscle Milk delivered more than 384 cases of its product last month.
The football strike and the media attention have awakened many Grambling State supporters and alumni to give back. Even, Dr. Pogue received a $1,000 check from an unexpected person in the men’s bathroom during Homecoming.
“It is time for us to come together and financially help our university,” said Rosalyn Lewis, Grambling’s Barnes and Noble book store manager of eight years.
Although, Lewis is not a Grambling graduate, she has been attending Grambling football games since the early ’70s.
“I hope we can go back to the great rivalry we developed with Jackson State University,” said Lewis.
Grambling will continue to plan and practice for the annual Bayou Classic game against in-state rivals Southern University on Nov. 30.