DEADSPIN: What’s Behind The Grambling Football Team’s Protest

Source: Dom Cosentino / Deadspin

Grambling’s storied football program is in complete disarray. On Tuesday, players walked out of a meeting with coaches and administrators. On Wednesday, they skipped practice altogether in protest, then repeated the boycott again today. And interim coach George Ragsdale has reportedly been fired. The players aren’t happy about how they’re being treated, but they’re not alone. Heavy cuts in state funding have wrecked the school’s athletic budget, and everyone—players, coaches, and administrators alike—is bearing the brunt of it.

According to the Shreveport Times, the players are upset because they had to take buses to recent games in Kansas City (approximately 1,200 round-trip miles) and Indianapolis (1,500 round-trip miles). They’re also not happy that coach Doug Williams—the program’s most distinguished alumnus—was fired last month, just two games into the season.

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. Those cuts were explained in the report as follows:

The university will continue to reduce the amount of funds transferred from the operating budget to the athletic department. To absorb these cuts, the Department of Athletics has eliminated the golf and men’s tennis program and will reduce athletic competition to NCAA minimums for each sport. The Department of Athletics has implemented major cost-saving initiatives (e.g. reduced team travel, reducing support staff travel, and mandating travel squads). In addition, the department has implemented numerous resource-generating activities (e.g. increasing the number of guaranteed games, increasing alumni engagement activities, and increasing coordination with institutional Advancement). The Department of Athletics will report financial status of cost saving and revenue generating to the president on an on-going basis.

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