Grambling State University has an elite history in multiple sports, turning in seasons where teams across the spectrum were in top shape and nationally recognized.
Many Gramblinites know the history of our sports teams, especially the those football teams was coached by the legendary Eddie G. Robinson.
GSU has even had late legendary stories, with Shakyla Hill, who recently signed on to play professional basketball in Serbia, becoming the only athlete in NCAA history to record a quadruple-double on two separate occasions.
This success puts Grambling’s sports programs into the spotlight, but with the knowledge of this great history raises the question, “Why don’t all the sports teams receive as much exposure?”
Throughout the year students, faculty and fans come to Eddie G. Robinson Stadium to watch the football team or the Assembly Center to watch the basketball teams, but why are sports such as bowling, track or tennis routinely overlooked by the Grambling community as a whole?
How do Grambling’s student athletes feel about the representation of less renowned other sports?
Grambling State football player, Shalik Williams, a senior from Chicago, Ill., said football games are more robust outings than what most sports offer.
“Football is just a different type of season, and it is based around other events,” Williams said. “We have bowls, we have homecoming, and we also have a band that is nationally recognized. Their constant presence and halftime shows brings an audience also.”
Williams feels as if attendance to other sports events may be lower because of their lack of facilities.
“I played multiple sports in high school, so I would want to attend more track meets, baseball games…even tennis matches,” Williams said. “I’m a sports guy.”
However, Williams believes that other sports had better facilities, they would be more recognized, especially by the student body.
“I feel like if these sports were able to host home games that students on campus could attend, they would be better represented and supported,” Williams said.
Jennifer Pickens, a senior from Shreveport, a member of both the Grambling State Track and Field team and the GSU Bowling team said she feels like the underrepresentation is caused in part by the lack of local events hosted.
“If the students were able to see the things that these underrepresented teams practiced everyday, they would be more appreciative of these teams,” Pickens said.
Can underrepresentation in sports be addressed?
Marquelle Broussard, an athletic academic coordinator at Grambling feels like part of the underrepresentation is caused solely based on the culture of the school.
“Grambling football has been in national light since before my time,” Broussard said. “GSU football is a part of Grambling’s culture, so the football program naturally receives most attention among Grambling’s sports.”
Though she recognizes the culture, she does acknowledge underrepresentation of sports to be an issue among Grambling Athletics that can be fixed.
“If all sports were backed by the university in the same light as our more popular sports, they would draw the same attention,” Broussard said. “Our teams, including the players, coaches and members of the athletic department must make it a duty to become more involved in getting the community to support our underrepresented sports.”
Broussard said such exposure could include more notices being put out on the upcoming events of these programs and promoting the visibility of these athletes so the students could then be able to appreciate these underrepresented programs.
Santoria Black, a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication and director of the Radio Lab, immediately agreed with students and listed the lack of on campus activities from these sports as a key reason for their underrepresentation.
“Cross country has one meet per year that is local,” Black said. “Track and tennis never have any home events, because they lack the facilities to do so.”
Black feels that students would be more supportive if they had the chance to participate in watching these sports compete. Black also believes the media plays a large role in this underrepresentation. He believes that the school media outlets need to increase their promotion on the events of these sport’s events.
“Our media teams should use social media to get the information out,” Black said. “Social media is where the people are at. If the students at least see this information it can increase their support among these sports.”
Looking back at the issue emphasized by the students with there being a lack of facilities, Black presented that there are actually solutions in progress to fixing these problems.
“The president has spoken on allocating funds in order to improve the track,” Black said.
Black also said that there must be an improvement in communication between the athletes and administration.
“Their must be an opening in the line of communication, that would help the administration to be more open about what is going on,” Black said, “Getting the information the correct way will help the students be able to understand how to go about what can be done, while also informing them about the steps already in progress.”
These steps would probably help increase the speed of improving the problems the student athlete has. An opening of communication would help students effectively relay these problems to whoever is in a position to help fix the problem.
Underrepresentation is not an issue that can be instantly fixed, but if the university can continuously make steps in the right direction to help these sports, it may spark more general interest or lesser known sports in the student body and beyond.