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Grambling Protest Exposes Disrespect for Blacks

C. Stiles

Upset about poor conditions and the firing of a legendary coach, the Grambling State University football team last Friday refused to board a bus for Jackson, Mississippi, to play Jackson State.

The revolt by the 0-7 Tigers is exposing an ugly reality of college athletics. The NCAA and corporate sponsors do everything possible to make sure big-league schools such as the University of Alabama, Ohio State University, and Notre Dame reap the rewards of multibillion-dollar bowl games. But storied black colleges such as Grambling, Howard University, and Florida A&M have to grovel for the leftover crumbs.

Black colleges are shut out of the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision, so these institutions never have a shot at the big paydays that come from playing in the Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, and Rose bowls. Heck, black colleges don't even get to play in lower-tier bowls that would allow the schools to generate revenue to help offset budget cuts that are killing their athletic programs.

Grambling's share of funding from the State of Louisiana has been slashed more than 50 percent in the past eight years. Last year, the university had to cut $1.19 million from the athletic department. Yet the NCAA has done nothing to help Grambling and other black colleges make money from other sources. Instead, the sanctioning body treats these schools like second-class institutions, relegating their prime-time games to Wednesday nights, when no one is watching football.

At Grambling State, things have gotten so bad that players must resort to riding buses to away games, sometimes traveling more than 1,000 miles. In a letter obtained by ESPN, players complained they've had to pay for Gatorade and Muscle Milk out of their own pockets. They've also had to deal with mold and mildew growing on their football equipment and in their workout facilities.

The last straw was the school's firing of head coach Doug Williams, a Hall of Famer who was the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl and whose son is the team's quarterback. The players refused to practice, forcing school administrators to cancel the game in Jackson this past weekend. Let's hope their protest prompts the NCAA to show black colleges some respect.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.


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