Grambling State Announces Its Return To Football
By Kristen Finstad
After a rocky week and a generally rocky season thus far, the Grambling State football team pledged to end their boycott and finish the 2013 season.
The Tigers refused to practice last week, leaving then-interim coach George Ragsdale alone on the field, after a meeting was held Tuesday to discuss the long bus rides, the subpar school facilities, and recent firing of their coach, Doug Williams.
Last Friday afternoon, the players didn't show up for the bus ride to their game in Jackson, Miss.
On Saturday, several players met with a reporter in a city park just hours after they would have played Jackson State. They wanted to explain their boycott and discuss what was to come next.
They told the reporter that for a month, since the firing of Williams, the team felt neglected and disrespected, and their frustrations reached an all-time high after the Tuesday meeting with school president Frank G. Pogue, athletics director Aaron James, and Ragsdale.
Several players met with former coach Williams on Sunday for some insight. His advice: "Go out there and play football." And everyone agreed.
Naquan Smith, a senior safety at Grambling, has served as the team's spokesman in all of this chaos. He released a statement to explain the Tigers' decision to return to football.
As part of the athletic program at Grambling State University, the football team, took a stance on what we thought was right. We did not quit on our university. There are many problems that exist and if no one says anything, nothing will come of our institution. We hope Coach Eddie Robinson and his legendary players can appreciate that we stood up for what we thought was right. After coming into contact with different sources, we decided to reach out to the one person we trusted, Coach Doug Williams, with our concerns. His main statement to us was, "Go out there and play football." He also put us in contact with Jim Bernhard out of Baton Rouge. A meeting was held with Mr. Bernhard as well as, Douglas Porter, Ezil Bibbs, Roy Jackson, Henry Dyer and Howard Davis. The meeting confirmed him [Jim Bernhard] as being committed with our best intentions at heart and that he would ensure we had updated facilities, but we had to agree to being back practicing Monday, October 21 and finish the remainder of our season. Although we are going to continue our season, we have not forgotten the situation and how we've gotten here. We would like to say thank you to Coach Williams, the Legends and Mr. Jim Bernhard. Grambling has given us the opportunity to be a part of its legacy and we are only looking to improve conditions for the university and future student-athletes.
The team's third head coach this season is former defensive coordinator Dennis Winston, an NFL linebacker from 1977-86.
Grambling State will face Texas Southern on Saturday.