SWAC working with Grambling to resolve ‘unprecedented situation’
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Southwestern Athletic Conference has announced that it is working with Grambling officials to ''ensure that the appropriate actions are made'' to resolve the continuing standoff between the school's football players and administration.
The SWAC said Sunday night in a release that Grambling had not been fined for forfeiting its scheduled game Saturday at Jackson State. As part of a boycott, Grambling players refused to travel from their Louisiana campus because of issues with athletic department and university leaders.
SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp told the Associated Press on Friday that Grambling would be subject to a fine for forfeiting according to the league's bylaws.
''The ramifications of this unprecedented situation [are] covered in our bylaws and constitution,'' Sharp said in Sunday's statement. ''Therefore, there should not be any confusion as it relates to how a boycotted game will be classified.''
Grambling's next scheduled game is Saturday at home against Texas Southern. The university has said there will be a practice Monday for the first time in about a week, but it's unclear if any players will show up.
Last Saturday's contest was Jackson State's homecoming and the university continued its planned celebration even without the traditional football game. The Jackson State football team had a short scrimmage and the usual events -- including the band's performance and homecoming parade -- went on as scheduled.
''The Grambling State situation affects the entire conference,'' Sharp said. ''We would like to commend Jackson State University President Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers and athletics director Dr. Vivian L. Fuller for creating a homecoming experience for their students, fans and alumni.''
Grambling's administration has confirmed one of the players' concerns is about travel. The team recently took buses to games in Kansas City and Indianapolis.
University spokesman Will Sutton said Grambling has endured a 57 percent cut in state funding over several years that has affected the entire campus. He said the school would ''love'' to fly the team to distant road games, but that Grambling was contractually obligated to take its band, cheerleaders and dance team on those two trips. He said those obligations led to the difficult choice to put everyone on buses.
The athletic department was asked to cut $335,000 this year from its overall department budget of $6.8 million. Sutton said football was cut by $75,000 to about $2 million.
ESPN reported Saturday that it had obtained a letter detailing player complaints, which included mold in the locker room and improperly cleaned uniforms contributing to an increased likelihood of staph infections.
Sutton said that local health department inspectors, acting on an anonymous tip, recently visited Grambling athletic facilities and recommended changes to improve conditions, but did not deem those facilities a health hazard.
Grambling (0-8) has lost 18 consecutive football games to NCAA opponents.