Buses intended to transport USA Today.University football players to Jackson State University for their Homecoming game sat empty as players did not show up to board them. It was the culmination of days of intense meetings and exchanges between players, the university and the student government, and three days of boycotted practices, reports
Football players have been protesting a litany of grievances, including allegedly shoddy weight equipment, inadequate transportation to distant away games and a lack of meals during their travels. The student-athletes are reportedly also upset over the firing of popular coach Doug Williams on Sept. 11.
Interim head coach George Ragsdale was fired Thursday in the middle of a 0-7 losing season, replaced by defensive coordinator Dennis “Dirt” Winston.
“We felt like we’ve been mistreated,” said Grambling State football player Naquan Smith after addressing more than 100 students who came out to support the team. “The administration is finally addressing some of the facilities issues, but we felt like it should have been done a long time ago. We felt there is a lack of leadership with the administration. We had a personal issue with (interim football coach George Ragsdale) and demanded for him to go. We want (President Frank Pogue) to go.”
Grambling athletics director Aaron James said that departure time for the Jackson State homecoming game was scheduled for 2:30 p.m., but university officials delayed it one hour, giving players until 3:30 p.m. to board the buses.
After it was clear that the team would be a no-show, Grambling officials told the bus drivers to leave at approximately 3:45 p.m.
Southwestern Athletic Conference Commissioner Duer Sharp said the situation was “very disappointing.”