It wasn’t very long ago, within the last 20 years, that Grambling State University, with its legendary coach Eddie Robinson, was the centerpiece in a long and proud tradition of athletics at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). At his retirement in 1997, Robinson had won 408 football games, which stood as an NCAA record until 2003.
Times, unfortunately, have changed, and the once-proud Grambling program has descended in a level of disarray that is far less about football and much more about issues with the school’s administration. After boycotting practice, it was announced that their most recent game against Jackson State would be forfeited.
What hurts more than the forfeited game for the Tigers is that this is just one of many issues that have arose out of Grambling. their men’s basketball program has shared similar woes, having not won a single game in the 2012-13 season. And having been hit hard with financial woes, like many HCBUs, competitiveness has given way to out and out survival.
In an era where at the very top, the argument is about whether or not paying college athletes should happen, the Grambling situation should shed a light at the other side of the coin, in which athletics struggles to make ends meet.
This is why when there was an uproar at Ohio State scheduling of Florida A & M this season, while a complete mismatch, it made sense to FAMU. Honestly, if your program was hurting and another school offers you $900,000 to play a game, you have no choice but to take it.
And while the argument rages on about large schools and their finances, small schools are slowly but surely being forgotten in the conversation. The Grambling boycott may only briefly point to their issues, but it’s only a matter of time before hard choices may need to be made, and these programs could cease to exist altogether.