The NFL loser update will return Tuesday. (The Giants play Monday night.)
In the meantime, I wanted to take note of a story that’s been on the FARK sports tab, but is too strange to ignore here.
The Grambling State athletic program, as I like to say, does not have “issues”: they have a lifetime subscription and a complete run of bound volumes. You may recall that the men’s basketball team went 0-28 this past season. You may also recall that the football team lost the first two games of the season, and fired coach Doug Williams.
Things have not gotten better for the football team. They’re now 0-7 and 0-4 in conference. And the players are unhappy. It seems there’s some concern over Williams being fired, and over “poor facility conditions”.
The players are also unhappy about travel policies. Money’s tight, so the team travels by bus.
For the 750-mile trip to a neutral-site game in Indianapolis, SI.com reported that the team left campus at 6 p.m. last 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, Grambling safety Naquan Smith told SI.
Grambling was scheduled to play Jackson State tonight. The game is Jackson State’s homecoming game, so it is kind of a big deal for the school (in terms of both spirit and money).
Note the use of the word “was”: the Grambling State players refused to get on the team buses Friday afternoon, and the game has been cancelled.
Yes, you understand that correctly; the football team is in open revolt.
On Thursday, the school relieved George Ragsdale of his duties as interim coach and replaced him with defensive coordinator Dennis “Dirt” Winston.
The Shreveport Times reported that one of the conditions for the players to end their boycott was that Ragsdale, who started the season as running backs coach, be relieved of his coaching duties.
The conference has ruled the game a forfeit, which I guess makes Grambling State 0-8 now. I can’t remember the last time there was a forfeit of this kind in college football; this list at SportsReference.com appears to include games that were retroactively forfeited due to NCAA enforcement actions, and (oddly enough) Wikipedia does not have a “forfeited college football games” entry.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There’s already some detail coming out about the Williams firing that makes the school look bad. And the school is clearly struggling financially: ESPN has a good backgrounder from Tim Keown.
I have a lot of respect for the Grambling players for standing up and saying “We’re not gonna take it anymore”, and I would hate to see them punished for expressing legitimate concerns. At the same time, though, given the university’s financial troubles and athletic struggles, I have to wonder if maybe the best solution is to shut down the athletic program completely. That certainly seems like a better option than Grambling renting itself out as a cupcake opponent or players spending 15 hours on buses.
(To be fair, ESPN says it is only 160 miles to Jackson State. That’s about the distance between Houston and Austin, or roughly three hours travel time. I wonder if the protest would have been more effective if they’d refused to get on the buses for Indy? Then again, 15 hours each way on a bus gives you a lot of time to think. And plan.)
Edited to add: Totally forgot that I wanted to note this bit from the horribly written TampaBay.com article FARK linked:
Friday’s apparent boycott was the latest in three days of upheaval for Grambling’s program — which rose to prominence under former coach Eddie Robinson and has won a record 14 mythical national championships for programs at historically black schools.
“…has won a record 14 mythical national championships”? Say what?
Edited to add 2: By way of the FARK discussion thread, here’s a really good article from SI that goes into more detail on Grambling’s issues, including the whole weight room floor issue and the money problems.