Tigers In A Spotlight: Hard Times and Big Trouble at Grambling State

The team sacked the university officials.

When the Grambling football team decided to boycott their game against Jackson State over the shoddy training facilities, poorly cleaned uniforms and pads, 14 hour-long bus trips and being charged for their own Gatorade it quickly evolved beyond a simple sports story into a eye-opening look at the sorry state of cash-strapped Black colleges and universities.

While politely framed, the letter from the football players of how deep in crisis mode Grambling State truly is.

The athletic complex is a place where we as a team prepare for competition. In our opinion, the complex is in horrible condition, and has many hazards that may contribute to our overall health. First, the complex is filled with mildew and mold. Mildew and mold can be seen on the ceiling, walls and floor, and are contributing to water leaks because of faltering walls and ceilings. Grambling student-athletes are not the only ones complaining about this particular hazard. When Lamar University came to play our team they refused to go in the locker room for half time due to mold and mildew. Second, the weight room and care of game and practice gear are in bad condition, in areas where the floor is coming up, it causes players to trip while lifting large amounts of weight. Equipment in the weight room is falling apart, as well as workout benches are tearing and ripping apart.

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We as student athletes would also like better detergent for our uniforms and practice uniforms. The uniforms are poorly cleaned and contribute to the multiple cases if staph infection. Several players have been infected with staph multiple times.  

Student-athletes have been complaining since summer 2013 about the way summer camp and work outs were set up.  We did not receive Gatorade or Muscle Milk. We had to pay for those expensive items ourselves. We were also forced to get water from hoses underneath the stadium in 90 degree plus weather. Student-athletes often complained of the high grass we had to practice in. The grass was up to our knees and was rarely cut. This was a huge inconvenience to the team.  Shortly after that we found out that we would not be housed for camp. Players that live off campus were responsible for commuting back and forth to campus three times a day, not to mention, we were already paying for summer school out of pocket.

During summer 2013 we were told we would be taking two major trips this season, Kansas City, Missouri and the other to Indianapolis, Indiana. We were pretty excited but found out later we would be taking a bus. Both trips, we traveled excessive hours. One trip was 14 hours while the other was 17.  Players were drained and exhausted after those long rides. Long rides take a toll on athlete’s bodies both mentally and physically. However both the president and athletic director traveled by plane. In our opinion, any trip over 8 hours should be taken by plane. We also found out that we would not travel to a hotel and stay overnight for home games. It is tradition for us to travel for home games but that tradition was broken also.

Get your lift on. But watch your step.

The next complaint is about money donated from friends of football and the alumni association. Money from both organizations is being rejected. The funds donated can help take care of some of our expenses. The funding can supply Muscle Milk, Gatorade, help house us or even get the complex cleaned and updated. All things that are much needed. The funds are rejected by the university, because the organizations that donate the money want to put their money toward a specific cause, not the university or athletics as a whole.  

The letter must have gone off louder than a bomb with university officials, but when the student newspaper Tweeted pictures of the torn workout bench, dirty walls, filthy weight-lifting belts and the mold and mildew covered football equipment, Grambling State retaliated by removing the editor from the paper.   Seems they figured freedom of the press doesn’t extend to exposing the squalid conditions the jocks have to endure,  but nobody was paying any attention to the dire state of Grambling University before this dramatic gesture by the players and now its a national news despite attempts by Grambling officials to suppress the story,   The picture coming in focus is of a crumbling football program, a school on financial life support, and an uncaring system that uses up the bodies of young men whom receive none of the profits but take most of the risks.

Don’t blame these young men for speaking truth to power.  Applaud them for standing up for something other than winning meaningless football games or is the purpose of higher education only to fill up stadiums on Saturdays and plug new cogs in the college football machine?

William C. Rhoden, an award-winning sports columnist for the New York Times  wrote, “While much of the language of college athletic reform has focused on exploitation of players and especially the low graduation rates of black players, the significance of the Grambling protest is that players at a historically black college complained that the institution was treating them unfairly and was exploiting their muscle. The boycott targeted a system that exploits all players, whether they attend Grambling or Georgia Tech. The issues at Grambling are different from the issues at Georgia Tech, but players at each institution play by the same N.C.A.A. rules. Those rules prop up an outdated and exploitative system. ”

Gov. Bobby Jindal has slashed millions in aid for Grambling.

There is plenty of blame to spread around in the Grambling mess.   The team is lousy this season (0-8), the university administration seems more interested in shutting up the students and covering their own asses than fixing the many problems of the troubled school.  But if there’s one specific bad guy  to be called out look no further than Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who has repeatedly cut state funding for Grambling as Deadspin detailed:

In 2009, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal turned down stimulus money from the federal government. That same year, Jindal cut $219 million in state funds for higher education, including $5 million that would have been earmarked for Grambling. In January 2012, Jindal announced an additional mid-year budget cut of $50 million for higher education, with Grambling losing out on nearly $1 million of that total. This is not chump change.

It gets worse. According to a 2011 university financial report, Grambling’s share of funding from the state of Louisiana was projected to decrease nearly 40 percent by the 2011-12 school year from its peak in 2007-08. According to Frank Pogue, the university president, that figure is now up to more than 50 percent in the last eight years. To help offset the shortfall, the school hacked some $200,000 from its athletics budget in 2010-11. And that same report called for an additional cut of $1.19 million from athletics in 2011-12.

There was not one single act nor one specific person to be blamed for the situation at Grambling State.   All the stupidly heavy-handed response by university officials to squelch the student newspaper’s criticism got them was even more negative attention and bad press. Way to go President Pogue.  Moron.

When my daughter was considering a HBCU to attend we toured several and came away stunned by the poor condition of the campuses and specifically the dormitories.   It never occurred to me to check out the athletic facilities.   If they were anything like Grambling State, I’m probably glad I didn’t without wearing a hazmat suit.

It’s unfortunate the young men at Grambling State have to go put up with this crap, but there are more important things than playing another football game.   Taking a stand and demanding to decent working conditions (and make no mistake, college football is a job) isn’t something reserved only for those picking up a paycheck.   The Grambling officials and the NCAA probably wish these student athletes would act more like stereotypical dumb jocks than young Black men speaking out, but they deserve as much applause for what they are doing now as much as anything they have ever done on a football field.

Bad times in the Bayou.

American Horror Story

The "j" in J"oseph" is missing. So is his sense of decency.

There’s never a shortage of ugly, unsettling stories to choose from, but stories don’t get grimmer, uglier or much more unsettling than the scandalous revelations of Jerry Sandusky an accused pedophile, former coach and colleague of legendary football coach, Joe Paterno.

Sandusky faces the end of his life behind bars.  Paterno who reported to university officials he had been informed Sandusky was observed fondling a 10-yr-old boy in a locker room shower was fired which sparked rioting on the campus by a mob of supporters.   The foul details of Sandusky’s crimes against children are laid out in the grand jury report.

It is a soul-searing, heartbreaking and sordid read.  You come away from reading it convinced of two things:  Sandusky is a monster and the all the Penn State officials did nothing and allowed him to destroy the lives of children.

There is nothing in the document that indicts the football program itself.  –

Everyone has an opinion on Paterno’s ignoble demise as a coach and the Penn State pedophile scandal. There’s no doubt this is an America horror story, but as the story is less than a week old, isn’t it too soon to draw too many conclusions?

There’s nothing more repulsive than a pedophile and I hate them like God hates sin.

But somehow it is the Penn State football program that’s been tried, found guilty and some have suggested it is the program that should suffer a “death penalty”.

Really?  Why?  The football players shouldn’t suffer for the actions of an ex-coach and the head coach’s ineffective and morally dubious decisions.  I fail to understand how football became the great evil at work here instead of one sick and twisted deviant who preyed on children.

First historic, now notorious.

Everyone is justifiably upset and angry, but are misdirecting that outrage to the sport and not the exploiter who used the sport to exploit innocents.

The football players are not responsible for what Sandusky did or what Paterno did not do. Everyone and their brother who has a bone to pick with college football is using this tragic situation to nurse their little grudges.

I wish there were as much sympathy for the children as there is misdirected hostility toward Nittany Lions football.

The thing is, not everyone goes to college for an education. Some go because it’s their path to the NFL or NBA. Big-time college sports are the most crooked, corrupt and exploitative game in town, but killing off Penn State’s football program solves NONE of the ills that plague college football. That’s like tearing off your arm because you cut your finger.

I understand the need some people have to “do something” since they aren’t patient enough to wait for the legal process to do its thing.

Instead, let’s do something dramatic, sweeping and personally satisfying. I know! Let’s get rid of Penn State football. Yeah, that will fix everything. In fact, why not shut down the entire Big Ten? Between Penn State and Ohio State, that’s two outlaw programs we’ll never be bothered with again.

One question: how does any of this prevent pedophiles from preying on children? The short answer is it won’t.

The face of pure evil.

I don’t even like college football. I prefer the NFL and look how many wife beaters, drug addicts, borderline psychopaths and even killers have played in that league. But I’m not going to stop watching the NFL because of the bad actions of a few assholes. O.J. Simpson retired from football wearing the gold and crimson of my favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers. You think I’m going to call for the 49ers to disband because Simpson killed two people?

Hell no, I’m not. You get a bad carton of milk, you pour it out. You don’t go hunt down the farmer and kill him and the cow.

There are disturbing reports that Sandusky may have “loaned” the children he abused out to others.  Pedophiles sometimes prey in packs, so we may just be staring at the tip of the iceberg.

However, that is still something for the investigations and legal process to uncover.   That’s a longer and less immediately satisfying process, but it makes a damn sight more sense to me than punishing everyone who is part of Penn State football, but has nothing to do with this mess.

I’m not an advocate of “solutions” that work along the lines of killing everyone and saying, “We had to sacrifice some of the innocent, but we’re pretty sure we got all the guilty.”

It’s easy to blame college football programs for this, but to do so goes far too easy on the (alleged) crimes of Jerry Sandusky. Don’t get it twisted. Joe Paterno didn’t do the right thing and his legacy has been forever stained by doing only the bare minimum instead of moving aggressively to protect children from a pedophile.

Sandusky is the bad guy here. Paterno and other Penn State officials enabled Sandusky by doing as little as possible.   Sandusky is going to end his wretched existence behind the walls of a cell where he will have to watch his back lest another prisoner takes it upon himself to excise him from the gene pool forever. Paterno was fired and disgraced while other university officials have also been bounced out or indicted.

Blaming the sport of football for the sins of Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno is just silly and it’s wrong.   There are too many assumptions, too many rumors and not enough facts in place. Let’s cool it with the lynch mob mentality until they are.