Although the Grambling State football players are back at practice and expect to play the rest of the season, the reasons why they didn’t play last week still remain unresolved.
“Although we are going to continue our season, we have not forgotten the situation and how we’ve gotten here,” said Grambling senior Naquan Smith on Monday to NOLA.com and the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune. The team forfeited last Saturday’s game at Jackson State after the players chose not to practice or play.
In a letter sent to Grambling school administration, the players wrote, “The athletic complex…is in horrible condition, and has many hazards that may contribute to our overall health…mildew and mold…on the
ceiling, walls and floor.”
They also complained about the poor facility conditions and practice equipment: “The uniforms are poorly cleaned and contribute to the multiple cases of staph infection. Several players have been infected with staph multiple times.”
“The last issue we would like to address is the firing of our head coach, Doug Williams,” added the players. “The football team was not addressed and received no sign of compassion from administration until over a month later …”
The Grambling players have “some legitimate issues that haven’t been addressed,” states HSRN and Washington, D.C. radio host Mark Gray. This includes 16- and 18-hour bus rides to games in Kansas City and Indianapolis “[while] the president and the athletic director flew themselves to said games,” he points out. “Then you got mold on the shoulder pads and an epidemic of staph infection going around the school because of unsanitary conditions.”
The Williams firing was a result of a power struggle between the former coach and administration, continues Gray. “They’ve got holes in the floor. Doug went out and got somebody to make donations…
“Then [Grambling President Frank] Pogue decided since Doug didn’t follow the proper protocol and have those funds earmarked through the university’s general athletic budget,” the coach was fired. “The president of the university is arrogant, firing Doug for no other reason than [he] went out” and raised funds.
School officials argue that state funding for Grambling has been cut by more than half. “I might give you a pass on that,” responds Gray, “but there’s nothing in your operating budget that affects proper sanitizing of the locker room area by custodial or janitorial staff, who are still being paid to do a job.
“For the president to come out and say he didn’t know that was going on…if I had it my way, not only would I see Pogue and the athletic director fired, I’d bring them up on criminal charges on child abuse. Those kids — 18- to 22-year-old young men — they’re our babies, and if we don’t protect our babies, we are [talking about] criminal negligence.”
Gray also wants both President Pogue and AD Aaron James dismissed for “institutional dysfunction and incompetence,” he adds. “You got these young people in harm’s way being pimped out, treated like cattle, and expected to generate money for the school. I think now you have to look at these kids in a heroic fashion.
“This is about the future of football at Grambling,” Gray surmises of the program started by the late Eddie Robinson and historically viewed “as the Notre Dame of Black college football.”
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