Sorry State of Affairs at Grambling State

The iconic football program built by the legendary Eddie Robinson, is now a sad disgrace.


Grambling State, for decades an iconic football program under the legendary Eddie Robinson, is now a sad disgrace. And I’m not just talking about losing ball games.

When I first got wind late yesterday that Grambling’s players had revolted against their interim coach and refused to play today’s game at Jackson State, I was outraged that the players would do that to their school. The more I read, though, it’s clear the outrage, while warranted, was misplaced.

ESPN (“Grambling St. players send letter“):

Grambling State football players complained of mold and mildew on equipment and in facilities, having to pay for Gatorade out of their own pockets and even said which assistants they thought would make a good interim coach after the firing of Doug Williams in a letter to the administration obtained by ESPN’s Pedro Gomez.

On Friday Grambling State canceled its football game against Jackson State after Grambling’s disgruntled players refused to travel to Jackson for the game Saturday.

The letter says that “there are certain factors that are hindering us from reaching our goals” and then elaborates on many of them.

The athletic complex “is in horrible condition, and has many hazards that may contribute to our overall health,” the letter says. “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.”

As has been reported before, the players say that the floor is coming up in the weight room, but the letter also asks that the university supply better detergent for uniforms.

“The uniforms are poorly cleaned and contribute to the multiple cases if staph infection,” the letter reads. “Several players have been infected with staph multiple times.”

A group of 26 photos obtained by Gomez from an unnamed Grambling State player appear to illustrate some of the players’ complaints.

Several of the photographs show walls and ceiling tiles and even player equipment that appear to be covered in mold or mildew. Other photos show floors from the facility’s weight-training room missing wide sections of its rubberized floor tiles, and torn and tattered covers to some of the room’s weightlifting benches.

According to the letter, players have been complaining for some time that Gatorade and the supplement Muscle Milk were not supplied during summer camp or workouts.

“We had to pay for those expensive items ourselves,” the letter states. “We were also forced to get water from hoses underneath the stadium in 90 degree plus weather.”

As has also been reported, players took exception to the fact that they had to travel by bus to Kansas City and Indianapolis.

“One trip was 14 hours while the other was 17,” the letter says. “Players were drained and exhausted after those long rides.”

The players were bothered, according to the letter, that “the president and athletic director traveled by plane.”

In addition, the letter states that money from “friends of football and the alumni association … is being rejected” because the organizations donating the money want it to go to specific areas, while the university demands that it be applied to the university or athletics as a whole.

I have too little information about the coaching performances of Doug Williams and his interim replacement, George Rasdale, to know whether their firings were deserved. My general sense, though, is that the school president and athletic director have the right to make those decisions and that student athletes should get on board.

But the other complaints need no caveat: the school was doing a gross disservice to the young men in their charge. You simply can’t subject them to mold and unsanitary conditions. And, while the insane money going into programs such as that at my graduate alma mater, Alabama, have created an arms race in facilities in which the Gramblings of the world can’t compete, basics like providing potable water, sports drinks, and plane flights for long trips have been the standard even at small schools for decades.

Grambling is a public institution of the state of Louisiana, so the responsibility may go higher than the university’s administration. To be sure, Louisiana is a poor state and it’s been hit disproportionately hard by the recent recession. And most states are providing an ever-decreasing share of the funding for their institutions of higher education.  But, if they can’t afford to ensure the basic health and safety of their student athletes, they should cancel the programs.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    I guess they don’t have a fatcat supporting them. Nike’s Phil Knight gives the University of Oregon millions of dollars a year and built them a state of the art practice facility.

  2. In addition, the letter states that money from “friends of football and the alumni association … is being rejected” because the organizations donating the money want it to go to specific areas, while the university demands that it be applied to the university or athletics as a whole.

    The university has to reject this money for Title IX reasons. If huge amounts of money were being dumped into the football program and just the football program, the university would be required to put an equal amount of funding into women’s sports out of their general fund.

  3. if they can’t afford to ensure the basic health and safety of their student athletes, they should cancel the programs


    It would appear to be approaching the point of self-cancellation.

  4. Scott says:

    If the health condition of the facilities is as bad as described I can’t believe they are not shut down by health officials. My son was hospitalized by a staph infection caught in the high school locker room. It is nothing to be casual about. BTW, I doubt LSU’s facilities are lacking.

  5. legion says:

    Deadspin actually has a very informative article on the background of this sad state. Basically, conservative darling Bobby Jindal has steadily cut Grambling’s (and all of Louisiana’s higher education) budget for the past several years, to the tune of several million dollars:

    But the roots of the problem go much deeper. 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.

  6. @legion:

    My personal opinion is that division 1 and division 2 collegiate athletics at public schools ought to be self-supporting anyways. Taxpayer funding for education shouldn’t be squandered running minor league sport teams. If schools want to do that, they ought to be funding it via booster donations or revenue generated by the sports themselves.

  7. Pharoah Narim says:

    Sad indeed because athletes at this level can indeed be considered student-athlete. Most don’t have the physical profile to compete professionally and they know it. They go to school to further they careers playing and get a degree to boot. Programs such as Grambling offer many otherwise capable students that are trapped in rural inadequate school systems across the south the chance to earn scholarships, graduate, and become taxpaying citizens. Clowns like Jindal sport non-sense about broadening the tax based–then take actions that encourage the opposite. The money spent on these programs builds generations of taxpayers that otherwise would be trapped in a cycle of poverty and public assistance.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    Grambling could make a big name for itself by being the first university to terminated its athletic program. Grambling St actually spends tax dollars on its athletic program (something that does not happen at LSU. Grambling St also does not have a specific student fess to support the athletic program.

    The entire university is starved for money and the last thing the university needs to do is take more money away from academic education to fund its football team.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    Considering that the six year graduation rate at Grambling is less than 27%, I doubt if many students go to Grambling are really looking for a degree.

  10. Robert C says:



    According to the website you cite, LSU has a 28% 6 year graduation rate…….hmmm…but that’s ok because those are LSU grads

  11. superdestroyer says:

    @Robert C:

    According to The six year graduation rate for LSY is 59% which is more than double than Grambling. Even Louisiana Tech which is the majority white school near Grambling (Grambling is actually the only segregation school paired with Louisiana Tech), has a six year graduation rate of 49%

    The way to evaluate public university is to look at the six year graduation rates. Most college students do not graduate in four years anymore.

  12. Tyrell says:

    Think about Saturday afternoons. Think about the television. Millions get their yard chores done and go in for an afternoon and evening of watching NCAA football. This past Saturday, my channels had over nine games just in the afternoon and those were on the free channels. I know a few people who are fanatics about a certain team and have built there whole life seemingly around that team. Now it comes on Thursday nights. Someday I expect Monday nights, maybe Wednesdays. This is a huge business. Billions spent on collegiate merchandise alone. College basketball is big too, but not as much as the football programs. What you have here is a huge financial system but it is not professional. Who is making the money? There is a lesson there somewhere.

  13. 11B40 says:


    Greetings, superdestroyer”

    Six-year graduation rate ??? You mean like 20 credits per annum or 10 credits per semester ??? Oh, my, aren’t we progressing. And yet, not everyone gets a degree ??? What about trophies ???

  14. Pharoah Narim says:

    @superdestroyer: Once again spouting off about things you now nothing about. You do realize that schools like LSU/La Tech ect have resource available to keep kids in school don’t you? Those kids get lots of $100 handshakes from boosters and financial assistance that “magically” shows up to fix problems at home. Kids that go to the Gramblings of the world have no such network. If you have issues at home that need fixing, you’re going to have to leave school and get a job to fix it yourself. As to fees, you think the student body at schools like Gramblin are able to absorb the impact of excessive fees like say the student body at LSU? The mission of these schools is to make college education affordable….excessive fees is counter-productive to that. When are you people going to realize that price doesn’t equal value?

    I played college basketball….so I KNOW for a fact this happens. At any rate, since you are increasing the taxpayer base by 25% and reduce the public assistance rolls by the same—its STILL a good investment. You are also ensuring (statistically anyway) that the offspring of the 27% that do graduate…also go to college and become taxpayers. Admit it…you are one of those people that have a problem with poor people getting a break.

  15. superdestroyer says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    You do realize that the graduation rates cited were for the entire student body and not just the athletes. I doubt if 100 dollar handshakes help the petroleum engineers at LSU graduate. In addition, the football team has more than 85 players. How many of those players receive any unpermitted benefits from boosters? I suspect very few.

    If you look at the costs of LSU,, it is around $7k for an undergraduate. Compare that to about $3k per semester for Grambling.

    If the state cuts the money going to Grambling and the students are paying almost nothing to attend where is the money for better athletic facilities suppose to come from? If Grambling St. wants to upgrade its football program, what academic department is suppose to receive less. If Grambling St is suppose to receive more money, what part of the state government should be given less. Does it really make sense to transfer money from a school that graduates more than 50% of its students to a schools where barely a quarter of the students graduate..

    In a sane world, HBU’s would have been eliminated long ago and the students who go to them would be absorbed into the existing state universities that do a much better job of educating students.