Naquan Smith and fellow Grambling football players boycott the team over travel arrangements, personnel decisions and nutritional complaints, among other issues.
*Grambling State players say they are ending their boycott after speaking with former coach Doug Williams, who advised them to, “Go out there and play football.”
Grambling is 0-8 this season and has lost 14 SWAC games in a row and 17 in a row against NCAA schools. The Tigers won a SWAC title as recently as 2011 under Williams, who played quarterback at Grambling in the 1970s under legendary coach Eddie Robinson.
Players’ complaints included the firing of Williams just two games into the season, the rundown state of athletics facilities and the fact the team had to ride buses roughly 1,200 miles round trip for a game in Kansas City, Mo., and 1,500 miles for a game last week in Indianapolis.
In a statement Monday, safety and team representative Naquan Smith said players reached out to several people, including Williams, and their ex-coach put them in contact with Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard.
Smith says Bernhard told players he has their “best intentions at heart and that he would ensure we had updated facilities, but we had to agree to being back practicing Monday … and finish the remainder of our season.”
Smith says although the Tigers will play, “We have not forgotten the situation and how we’ve gotten here.”
Players refused to travel to Saturday’s game at Jackson State, a forfeit, because of disagreements with university leaders.
Meanwhile, the team also had a problem with interim head coach George Ragsdale, who was subsequently reassigned within the athletics department. He was replaced by defensive coordinator Dennis “Dirt” Winston, Grambling’s third coach in five weeks.
Ragsdale ended his short tenure with a 0-5 record. He took over for Williams after the Super Bowl champion quarterback was fired Sept. 11.