Grambling State's football players are back.
The team returned to practice on Monday after consulting with former coach Doug Williams, who was fired in September after the team was 0-2. The dismissal of Williams, condition of facilities, transportation and other factors were the reasons for a player boycott, which culminated in the forfeiture of Grambling's scheduled game Saturday at Jackson State.
The players had walked out of a meeting Tuesday, and had skipped Wednesday's practice and refused to travel Friday to Jackson State. According to USA Today, only 22 players showed up to get on the bus for the game.
"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," Grambling player Naquan Smith said in a statement.
Robinson won 408 games in 56 years at Grambling. After the Jackson State forfeit, Grambling is winless this season and has lost 15 straight games to conference opponents.
"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."
A Sports Illustrated piece Friday detailed the financial situation at Grambling that has affected the entire university. The historically black college in Louisiana has seen state funding dwindle from $31 to $13 million. Players sent pictures to ESPN of what appears to be mold and mildew in the team facilities and on shoulder pads, and said that they had to pay for Gatorade and Muscle Milk themselves as well as drink from a hose underneath the stands during summer practice.