Continued from page 1

At that point, the players revolted.

They refused to travel to Jackson State for their next game _ perturbed at the revolving door of coaches, disgusted at what they saw as an uncaring administration, fed up at being subjected to appalling conditions. Some were disputed by school officials, such as mold in the locker room and improperly cleaned uniforms raising the risk of staph infections. Budget woes were blamed for other issues, most notably a brutal 17-hour bus trip _ each way _ to a game in Indianapolis.

The school was hit with a $20,000 penalty as a result of the forfeit and will be forced to play at Jackson State the next three years.

The players returned the following week and some of their issues have been addressed, including a new floor in the weight room. The Tigers also won their first game, beating Mississippi Valley State.

Pogue has referred all questions to Aaron James, a former Grambling basketball player who was appointed interim athletic director in June and took over the job permanently in August.

James said state budget cuts have hurt the entire university, with funding sliced by 57 percent since 2008 and a staggering $53 million in unmet needs cropping up around campus. The financial woes, he said, are felt even more at HBCUs, which have long said that chronic underfunding is a lingering vestige of segregation.

“I don’t think it’s just a Grambling thing,” James said. “It’s bigger than athletics. It’s all over the university, but we never hear about what academics is not getting.”

A survey by The Associated Press found Grambling’s athletic budget of $6.7 million for the current school year ranks sixth in the 10-team Southwestern Athletic Conference _ significantly lower than the top school (Alabama State at $9.9 million) but nearly double the one at the bottom of the list (Mississippi Valley State at $3.6 million). In fact, the game the Tigers forfeited would have been against a school with a slightly lower budget, Jackson State at $6.5 million.

Pogue sent a letter to alumni and supporters, asking them to give $10 via text during a two-day fundraising campaign that will coincide with the nationally televised game against Southern.

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, one of two former Grambling players currently in the NFL, intends to give back over the offseason.

“It’s very embarrassing to me,” Hatcher said. “I’m going to be down there as much as I can trying to build the program back up, do what I can to help my school get back to where it used to be. It’s a historical program _ Eddie Robinson, Doug Williams, guys like that. We’ve got too much history in that school to let it go under like that.”

Even if Grambling does raise more money, Harris questions how it will be spent. For instance, Williams is still owed his $245,000 annual salary through 2014.

One thing is clear: The school must patch up the fractured relationship between the administration and its notable alumni base. Grambling is leaving a lot of money on the table, and it’s not clear if that will improve as long as Pogue is president.

“We need someone in there rallying everyone together,” Harris said. “Then we can hopefully get things back to where everybody is supporting one cause _ and that cause is Grambling.”


Story Continues →