Thursday, October 17, 2013

What Would Coach Rob Think Of All This?

For the second consecutive day, the Grambling Tigers did nothing on the field to prepare for Saturday's game against the SWAC-leading Jackson State Tigers.  

For the second straight day, players used their "inactivity" to bring attention to their plight.  Upset about the dismissal of Doug Williams early in the season; ticked off about assistant coaches losing their jobs and then getting re-hired only to see another assistant dismissed; agitated after taking 12-and-16-hour bus rides to Kansas City and Indianapolis for games; frustrated by not getting all the meals provided on those road trips, the players chose not to practice Thursday (media reports indicate a practice set to start at 6pm inside Grambling's basketball arena did not take place. Reports of players exiting the arena shortly after 6pm lead us to think practice did not take place).

In addition on Thursday afternoon, Williams replacement, George Ragsdale was promoted from running backs coach to interim head coach.  Ragsdale had no idea just how temporary his tenure would be. Five games into his new gig, he gets yanked from the top spot and replaced by former Razorback, New Orleans Saint & Pittsburgh Steeler, Dennis "Dirt" Winston as the second interim head coach of the 2013 season.

Through all this, one thought kept coming back to me:

What would Coach Rob think about this? 

Player mutiny? 

Doug Williams, one of his greatest players and leaders, dismissed as head coach two games into the 2013 season? 

Eddie Robinson, winningest coach in NCAA history and leader of men for 56 years on the Grambling sideline, passed away six years ago.  The program he built and nurtured to the top of the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) platform has completely crumbled.  

In 1941, Eddie Robinson began his coaching career at the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute.  One of my favorite Coach Rob stories involved the renaming of the school from it's rather lengthy moniker to Grambling State University. Coach Rob loved telling folks by the time his cheerleaders had finished yelling, 'Let's go, Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute!' the play would be over." When sawmill owner P.G. Grambling donated the land for the school to be built in 1946, LNN&II was gone, Grambling State College was born.  As Coach Rob said many times, it was much easier for the cheerleaders to keep the flow going with the shorter, catchier name.

In the old south, black football players had no choice but to attend black-only schools.  Talented young men had limited options.  Fortunately for the thousands that chose to spend four years under the tutelage of Eddie Gay Robinson, they had a leg up on other schools---black and white---they had Coach Rob.  200+ of his former players cashed paychecks in the NFL.  Four made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Williams was named MVP of Super Bowl XXII.  

Coach Rob did everything for his beloved Grambling... wrote the game pieces for the newspaper in the early days, taped ankles, made sandwiches for the players on road trips.  His legacy of fairness and leadership seem like distant ideals at this point in the Grambling timeline. 

Eddie Robinson once said, "Everything I've done, I dreamed it first."  At Grambling State University, the school that Coach Rob turned into a household name, the dreams of Eddie Robinson have been transformed into a nightmare for the players, friends and alumni of the institution.