HBCU Game Time

Grambling Football: The Aftermath

Credit: Lifesize

The HBCU sports season is officially on, and as host of the national sports talk radio show, From the Press Box to Press Row, I cover all the action on the games that showcase our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCU GameTime will provide a weekly rundown on what’s happening on the field, and occasionally other sports-related topics. Let’s play!

Donal Ware, HBCU GameTime

Donal Ware, HBCU GameTime


The Grambling State football student-athletes set out on a mission on October 15.  The mission was to bring to light some of the conditions they faced.  For instance, the players took 17- and 14-hour bus rides to Kansas City and Indianapolis, respectively for football games.  They provided pictures of moldy and mildewed locker rooms and improperly cleaned uniforms.  They brought those conditions to light and did something very unprecedented.

They boycotted.

The boycott, and eventual forfeiture, of the game against Jackson State gripped the sports world and beyond for a good 36 hours.  On the one hand, the players stood for what they believed in and what they thought was right. On the other hand, the Tigers were forced to play an intrasquad scrimmage during homecoming and while Grambling’s forfeiture moved JSU to 6-0 in the SWAC, it cost JSU an estimated $200,000. Not to mention potentially millions to the city of Jackson, Miss.

On Monday morning, team spokesman Naquan Smith, a player on the team, said the players would return to practice on Monday, which they did under the direction of the Tigers new interim head football coach Dirt Winston after their former interim head coach George Ragsdale was relieved of his duties per the players’ request.  The team is now preparing for their game Saturday against Texas Southern.

There will be plenty of national media converging on Grambling, Louisiana, a city with a population near 5,000, to cover the football game against Texas Southern this weekend.  The movement by the Grambling players accomplished their goal.  Years from now, we will talk about this from a historical perspective.

This was more than just about football.  This was about the conditions in general around Grambling’s campus which are now being addressed by the administration.

Quite frankly what the Grambling players have brought to life is bigger than the school.  It is also about the conditions of our HBCUs.

Generally, athletics (football) at HBCUs do not make money.  At most schools, athletics is one of, if not the primary, marketing arm.  That is why in the mid-’90s and the beginning of 2000, schools either moved to Division I, e.g. Hampton, Norfolk State, Alabama A&M, Savannah State.  Some schools brought football back, for example Shaw, Saint Augustine’s, Benedict, Allen (the program has again been disbanded).  Florida A&M even made an attempt to move from NCAA Division I-AA to Division I-A.  More recently, North Carolina Central moved from the CIAA and Division II to the MEAC and Division I.  Even Paine College will field a football team beginning next year.

Part of Grambling’s overall problem is the 57 percent budget cut it faced.  Unlike Grambling, LSU for example, (both schools are part of two different systems but are both Louisiana state supported schools) in the face of budget cuts, can get on better footing because its athletics department makes money.  LSU “only” cleared $3 million to $4 million for fiscal year 2012-13.

LSU, as did all of the SEC schools, received $20.7 million from the SEC’s television deal and with the new deal could receive a projected $14 million more.


The SWAC and the MEAC do receive exposure from ESPN by having games televised, but obviously not to the tune of $14 million per school.  (That’s where the exposure piece comes in because in the same regard, the schools would not be able to pay for that kind of exposure, although I would like to see ESPN up the guarantee to the conferences.)

So how does Grambling and other HBCUs make up a deficit in budget cuts?

“Write a check,” Pogue said when asked how Grambling can be helped.

How many of you write a check to your school?  I am a 1999 Morgan State graduate and have written maybe only two checks to Morgan since I graduated.

I am guilty.

We as alumni have to do a better job of giving.  I realize it is tough in this economy, but if we don’t want to see some more of our schools go under we must try to help make up the shortfalls.

We must also hold businesses, particularly larger local business, that we patronize accountable.  Doesn’t it burn you up when you go to a football game at the big state schools and see advertising all over the place; yet when you go to an HBCU football game, you don’t see the same businesses advertising, yet we are patronizing those same businesses?

Perhaps we as HBCU supporters should take a page out of the playbook of the Grambling football team. What do you think?

You can follow Donal Ware on Twitter @dware1 and @boxtorow

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