What the Grambling State boycott means
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 11:10
Two weeks ago, Grambling State University’s football program found its way into the national spotlight, not for its play on the field, but for the players boycotting the program. The players felt Grambling State’s facilities were inadequate for a Division I school. The players eventually returned to the program the following week, but missed a game with Jackson State University. Jackson State is seeking reparations from Grambling after forfeiting the game, which was Jackson’s homecoming game.
There must be a reason for the players to walk out on their sport that is more significant than facilities and cause this much grief for the institution.
The boycott began after the weekend Grambling got beat 48-0 by Alcorn State University in Indianapolis. Alcorn, which is in Mississippi, took a plane to the game while the players from Grambling had to sit through a 16-hour bus ride from Louisiana. The players cited this as an example of how the school is skirting costs. They walked out of a meeting they had with school administrators on their way to refusing to be a part of the program.
The facilities for the program have fallen into a state of disrepair. George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated stated “you walk into their weight room and there are big rubber tiles missing where guys could trip while lifting weights. Or the padding on the weight benches is all torn up. And... there are ceiling tiles missing and insulation coming through, rust on the windows.”
In spite of this, there is little Grambling State can do about these facilities. Being a state-funded school, it is dependent on the state funding it receives and when its funding got cut by 57 percent in the past few years, the school struggled to sustain itself as it laid off 120 people so far and has affected the athletic department as well. There have even been discussions of dropping the football program if the school cannot find additional revenue streams.
The school is also limited in what it can do in part because it’s a historically black university. With a small student body and a lack of resources that other universities in Louisiana have (i.e. LSU), Grambling's ability to address the issues of the facilities will certainly be tested.
Grambling will likely be hit even harder financially with Jackson State University (JSU) seeking damages for forfeiting the homecoming game. The GSU-JSU game usually draws 20,000 people and Jackson is in the process of refunding all those tickets as well as addressing the costs of the homecoming festivities and the maintenance costs.
The boycott matters because there are several schools in the same boat as Grambling State, such as Miami University. Miami is facing many of the same challenges in terms of creating new revenue streams to improve facilities in a sustainable way. With Miami's reputation in the Mid-American Conference, there is no reason why it cannot have the best facilities in the conference. The University needs support to do this and progress has been made with the contributions to the development of the new indoor facility, but this will not happen overnight. This will happen because Miami and its alumni will stand firmly to support the athletes and give them what they need to be successful.