Meridian Star

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October 23, 2013

Grambling football dispute draws attention to cuts

BATON ROUGE —

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A nearly weeklong boycott by the Grambling State University's football team including forfeiting its game at Jackson State has made more people aware of the campus's financial struggles and drummed up interest from donors around the country, Grambling's president said Tuesday.

For its part, Jackson State said late Tuesday night that its losses over canceling its homecoming game Saturday could cost the school and the city millions and that it "plans to pursue litigation against Grambling State and others," which could cause Grambling even more headaches.

Grambling President Frank Pogue told the University of Louisiana System board that oversees the historically black college that "it's a rarity for any athletic team to come together to abandon their commitment to an institution by walking off the field. It's a very unique experience. But we're using this as an opportunity of learning, a teachable moment."

Pogue said he's used the national attention Grambling has received as a way to highlight campus academic and facility needs and that the complaints lodged by football players about inadequate facilities are symptomatic of larger financial troubles on campus.

The university, like all public colleges around Louisiana, has been hit with repeated budget cuts from the state since 2008. Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal have stripped $690 million in state funding from higher education, a 48 percent reduction. Tuition increases have only partially filled the gap.

Pogue said Grambling's state financing has been slashed 57 percent, and he said that fell on top of disparities in funding that already exist across the nation for historically black colleges and universities.

"If you want to be helpful to Grambling, write a check," he said.

Grambling's players staged the boycott — which is over now — because of many issues with university leaders, including the school's rundown facilities, long bus trips to road games and coaching changes. The players have returned to the field and are expected to play this weekend, but only after forcing the university to forfeit its game against Jackson State last Saturday.

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