Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Traditionally, Grambling has been to HBCU football what Notre Dame is to major college football. They were nationally prominent and a brand that resonated with the masses. Under Eddie Robinson, the "G-Men" were the standard by which all other HBCU programs were judged.
But thanks to a rogue president, an incompetent athletic administration, and a state government that has reduced its endowment to a third of what it was, Grambling's football program has now reached critical mass. Three coaches in one season, 17 consecutive losses since 2011, and the embarrassment of forfeiting Jackson State's homecoming, pale in comparison to the institutional abuse of the players, which has finally boiled over.
If this story was only about 16-18 hour bus trips and blowout losses, you could tell the players to suck it up. Were it just about having to buy their own Gatorade, you could plausibly justify that as long there is safe drinking water they could hydrate themselves adequately.
However, this is much bigger than that. This is about subjecting young men to primitive third world conditions that border on inhumane. Grambling State’s weight and locker rooms were laced with unsanitary dilapidated conditions that put players at risk. Football is dangerous enough. Pads, which are supposed to protect players from injury, have become a conduit for an epidemic of staph infections that turned the training room into an infirmary. At some point, the Center for Disease Control and Dr. Sanjay Gupta should pay Grambling a visit so they can trip over gaps in the flooring that could have been fixed if not for the arrogance of the school's president.
This is all an egregious oversight that has brought competence into question. To subject kids to moldy conditions in their locker room, and shoulder pads laced with bacterial growth is criminal. The health and safety of student-athletes is the administration's responsibility. But what President, Frank Pogue and Athletic Director, Aaron James allowed to transpire under their watch was simple neglect. Pogue and James are now, like the Frank Lucas and Nino Brown of Grambling. They whacked Coach Doug Williams on September 11, capturing national attention, in a territorial power struggle that would have made for a great episode of The Wire. Williams’ crime was circumventing the administration in his successful effort to fund new flooring for the weight room. The administration’s attempts to subvert Williams gave the players no choice but to stage a boycott to expose the working conditions at Grambling State.
Because any lay person not under the safety net of a university's mafia would be facing criminal charges for subjecting young people to these types of conditions. Proper cleaning of the athletic facilities is not due to a lack of funding; it speaks to an absence of commitment to the student athletes and functional incompetence of the administration.
The dysfunctional duo of Pogue and James has done volumes of damage, tarnishing Grambling's legacy that Coach Eddie Robinson and Williams polished, putting the school on a national stage for the last half century. They should be fired immediately, Williams should be reinstated, and the Grambling State football team should finally have their concerns addressed. Because by failing to supply their student-athletes with a safe environment, the foundation that HBCU's were built on has been violated.