Grambling State players refused to board the buses for their game Saturday. (Sean Isabella/The News-Star/AP)
The drama surrounding the Grambling State football team could be coming to an end. Grambling players said in a statement that the team will return to practice on Monday and finish out the season, Matt Vines of the Shreveport (La.) Times reports.
In a letter dated Oct. 20, senior defensive back Naquan Smith said the decision came after the team's former coach Doug Williams, who was fired on Sept. 11, told the players to return to the field.
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. 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.
Last Tuesday, university officials met with Grambling’s football team to show support for the FCS Southwestern Athletic Conference program, which had lost 17 straight games and had already fired Williams. Members of the team voiced their displeasure in the school's treatment of players and the health and safety of the Grambling facilities, among other issues, SI.com's George Dohrmann reported.
On Friday, Grambling fired interim coach George Ragsdale and replaced him with defensive coordinator Dennis Winston, the school’s third head coach in five weeks. The team did not play its regularly scheduled game against Jackson State on Saturday as part of the players' protest.
Though the team has opted to return to the field, Smith said the foundation of its protest has not been forgotten.
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.