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Roland Martin talks with Grambling State University President Frank Pogue about the current debacle happening at the historic HBCU. Read the full interview below.
ROLAND MARTIN: …A tough weekend for Grambling University national attention focus on the Louisiana school when the football team refused to get on the bus to head to Jackson State. They had to forfeit the game. The players say there are significant problems on the campus when it comes to their facilities. Joining us right now is the President of Grambling, Dr. Frank Pogue. Sir, good morning.
DR. FRANK POGUE: Hello there, hello there.
ROLAND MARTIN: Certainly glad to talk with you. Let’s get right to it. This was unprecedented to have a football team say we simply are not going to play a game. There was lots of back and forth all week. And of course you guys had to forfeit the game. You apologized to Jackson State. Will Grambling play this weekend? Will you be able to resolve this conflict some call a mutiny with your football team.
DR. FRANK POGUE: Yes. Let me say first of all, though, that Grambling State University is a very proud, historically black institution that is 112 years old. And we continue to offer excellent academic programs in some 47 disciplines. And the university itself is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities.
ROLAND MARTIN: De. Pogue, I got to ask you, you said yes. How are you going to resolve the conflict. Will it start with players attending practice today? Because that hasn’t been a guarantee for the past week.
DR. FRANK POGUE: Yes. Now, first of all we want our players, and all of our students, to understand that we respect the rights of all of our students to express their concerns. To let their voice be heard, and to let all of us know what’s on their mind. This is a wonderful nation that has something called the First Amendment and the Freedom of Speech. Now having said that, we encourage our men, and we have received the concerns raised by our football players. We are addressing those concerns right now, we have addressed most of the concerns already.
ROLAND MARTIN: Addressed most of those concerns, we’re talking about the cleaning of the facility. What about the issue when it comes to mats on the weight room floor? When it comes to not getting protein drinks as they allege? They made a number of allegations including to the point of have inadequate washing of team uniforms.
SYBIL WILKES: Unsanitary conditions.
DR. FRANK POGUE: Yes, but you see, this – first of all, this is not true, first of all. Now I do want …
ROLAND MARTIN: Now when you say this is not true, what is not true?
DR. FRANK POGUE: Yeah, the conditions that you just described …
ROLAND MARTIN: But the players, sir, posted photos over the weekend that also were put on ESPN showing mildew on walls, showing dirt and debris on weight belts. They posted some 30 different photos, so where did those photos come from? So we say it’s not true, but where did those photos come from showing filth, and mildew, and mold and dirt?
DR. FRANK POGUE: Let me just say also that the Health Department recently visited our campus towards the weight room and other facilities and determined that there was no health hazard, there were no mold, and no mildew.
ROLAND MARTIN: You say recently. When was that?
DR. FRANK POGUE: October 7th. October 7th.
ROLAND MARTIN: Okay.
DR. FRANK POGUE: Okay?
ROLAND MARTIN: I have a – go ahead.
DR. FRANK POGUE: So I do also want you to know that we have made significant contributions to athletics. We have not expected athletics to make contributions to our serious, serious budget issue at Grambling where since I’ve been here in four years we have lost 57% of our state funding. Right now we are funding, we are very close to declaring financial exigency. We are …
ROLAND MARTIN: So you …
DR. FRANK POGUE: So today, in a financial emergency at Grambling …
ROLAND MARTIN: … lay the blame at the feet of Governor Bobby Jindal because of the massive education cuts to state education. Is he largely to blame for what is going on, the financial condition of Grambling State University?
DR. FRANK POGUE: Well, let me just say all universities in Louisiana are suffering as a result of massive budget cuts. Grambling, of course, being an HBCU, suffers even more because Grambling, as an HCBU, has never been equally funded with other institutions in the first place. So when you cut Grambling $5 or $10 million dollars it hurts. Now we need money, yeah. For those who care about Grambling State University please write a check. Send it to our Grambling University Foundation.
SYBIL WILKES: …What about the things that have been donated to the school that were not used, such as the students indicated the flooring was donated in order to clean up some of the unsanitary conditions, and they said that was just put to the side and not being used?
ROLAND MARTIN: Yeah, is it true that your former coach, Doug Williams, got outside money to buy the flooring. It was placed down, but according to critics you and others said that it was done improperly and the mats were picked up and stored elsewhere. Was that the case? Did that happen?
DR. FRANK POGUE: Let me just say that this is a State public university. And everyone knows that there are many procedures that we must follow. It is not acceptable by the state of Louisiana for anyone to simply accept a donation in a leadership role and sign a contract to have alterations done to state property without appropriate steps of approval that I must always report to state government. So no one has a right to change state property, and this is what we’re talking about now, there are procedures that we must follow to make sure …
ROLAND MARTIN: I got you. But Doctor, I got to ask you …
DR. FRANK POGUE: … that gifts are accepted, and in this case that you’re describing, those procedures were not followed. And they have not been followed. And thus the university has taken over the contract itself with the firm that we’ve had donations made, yes, by external groups. But you don’t make donations to the university and just move ahead without following state procedures.
ROLAND MARTIN: I got to ask you real quick, Dr., you’ve got financial problems, but you fired Doug Williams. You have to pay off his contract. You’re paying an interim coach right now. Does it make sense to fire someone and pay them off when you have financial difficulty as opposed to waiting till the end of the year? Was it wrong to get rid of Doug Williams as your coach?
DR. FRANK POGUE: The bottom line is that Grambling State University is doing the right thing. What we tried to do is to honor Doug’s contract, and that’s exactly what we did. We bought him out of his contract. And that’s the bottom line. That’s what we did.
SYBIL WILKES: Will you play this Saturday?
DR. FRANK POGUE: We need, of course, to play not only this Saturday; we need to complete our season. So what we are asking, of course, our players, and our parents and guardians as well, to encourage our players to honor the commitment that they made to the institution when they received scholarships to play football.
We love our players, we love all of our students, we support all of our students. And I’ve assured them that we support them 100% and will continue to tell them that. But we now have a need to move on. The points have been made. They have been heard nationally. We have addressed many of those concerns. We are addressing others, not only in football, but in other sports and other needs around the university and there are many needs here, because we don’t have any money.