Our Views: The real cost to Grambling

Grambling State University must pay at least $20,000 for forfeiting its game against Jackson State in Mississippi this fall.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference did not announce exact figures in its news release, but said the fine would be issued in accordance to the league’s bylaws. Grambling spokesman Will Sutton has said previously that amount is $20,000. Grambling also must play road games at Jackson State the next three seasons.

Grambling’s players staged a boycott of the Jackson State game because of issues with Grambling’s leaders, including the school’s rundown facilities, long bus trips to road games and personnel decisions.

The SWAC also said Grambling will pay Jackson State an undisclosed amount from its “future distribution amounts” to help Jackson State recoup lost money from the Oct. 19 cancellation.

What is the real cost? A blow to Grambling’s reputation that isn’t going to be soon forgotten.

Sad to say, dissension at Grambling is an old story. Over decades, conflicts over money and athletics have hardly been unusual. Like most historically black universities, the end of integration gave potential students more options, and not just for the fullbacks and band leaders.

Even with significant support from state government, including heavy investment in facilities as part of a 1980s consent decree over past discrimination, the campus just down the road from the highly rated Louisiana Tech University has been challenged. Management hasn’t been up to it, as a long series of auditor’s reports and executive changes over many years demonstrated at Grambling.

The campus, like many other regional universities, has suffered from declining state support. Unlike Tech or LSU, these universities don’t have carte blanche to raise tuition without an impact on enrollment.

Pride is fine, but putting politics and insider privileges ahead of paying the bills, or — as players protested by forcing a forfeit — cleaning football uniforms, dealt blow upon blow to the university’s reputation. That in turn further hurts enrollment and faculty recruitment.

That is the real cost, not the SWAC penalties for one ball game forfeited.