by Roy Lang III
In a conversation with the Journal, University of Louisiana System president Jim Henderson backed Grambling president Rick Gallot a week after Henderson received a letter — purported to originate from the football team, but not linked to any specific players — stacked with complaints and aimed directly at Gallot.
The letter, first reported by HBCUsports.com, was signed by “The 2021 Grambling State University G-Men” and claimed Gallot was the “main contributor to the decline” of Grambling football, a program that “used to be the Black Notre Dame and icon of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).”
Three main areas of concern outlined in the letter (dated Dec. 7) to Henderson, the Louisiana Board of Regents, senator Katrina Jackson and representative Patrick Jefferson were: Misappropriation and diversion of funds for the football program, a failure to provide a safe environment and a failure to provide, promote and support proper athletic staff.
“Issues in the football program are dealt with by the coach, the athletic director and the president, if necessary,” Henderson told the Journal. “Some of the safety things (mentioned in the letter), that’s been a focus for Grambling for some time. The Facilities Master Plan includes some state-of-the-art security upgrades.”
Upon receipt of such “anonymous” letters, Henderson said the process is to immediately contact the subject – in this case, Gallot. In terms of action, Henderson deferred to Gallot, who was named Grambling president in 2016.
Consequently, Gallot says he’s put the wheels in motion for an investigation.
“On the field or in the classroom, the safety of each student is paramount,” Gallot said in a statement provided to the Journal by the university. “As a result, I’ve asked the Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics (Trayvean Scott) to investigate the issues raised in the claim to ensure no GSU athletics staff member has allowed any student-athlete to perform in an unsafe environment or situation.”
In October of 2013, the Grambling football team staged a week-long strike that forced the forfeit of a game against Jackson State. The strike resulted from issues with the school’s rundown facilities, long bus trips to road games and personnel decisions under then-school president Frank Pogue.
Eight years later, a letter complained about ramifications from declining meal and travel budgets, a feeling of insecurity due to recent school shootings on campus and a revolving door (four athletic directors during Gallot’s tenure) at the top of Grambling’s athletic department.
The group behind the letter also voiced support for former head coach Broderick Fobbs, who was fired in November despite a 54-32 record and two Black College Football National Championships with the Tigers.
The letter concluded: “It is an honor to represent Grambling as G-Men and we deserve better from our university.”
Gallot is confident the university is headed in the right direction.
“Unfortunately, anonymous letters are often used by groups averse to change or lacking awareness of the detailed business operations of an institution,” Gallot’s statement said. “As we have intensified our efforts to progressively protect and advance our brand, we continue to pursue actions against unlicensed vendors, and individuals and groups raising money in the name of the institution without appropriate authorization. These actions often lead impacted entities feeling disgruntled and contrary.
“For 120 years, Grambling State University continues to build on the foundation of educational excellence that fosters an inclusive experience of worth and belonging while discovering your own greatness. Over the last several years, the institution has implemented successful best practices to improve its physical and financial health, resulting in three consecutive years of favorable results in its annual financial audits, each with zero findings. Valuable partnerships have also made it possible to lift the quality of campus facilities made available to all students including student-athletes.”
Henderson voiced unwavering faith in Gallot and the eight other school presidents, but maintains he continues to provide Grambling support in its mission to improve on the fields of sport and off.
“I’m focused on getting all of the resources we can possibly get to, reinforce some of the great progress already been made at Grambling – in both academics and athletics,” Henderson said. “It’s not merely having faith in our presidents, it’s faith in continual correspondence and communication.
“I’m on those campuses a couple of times a year. The presidents are the CEOs of the universities. I think we have nine of the best we’ve ever had at these universities.”
In his statement, Gallot continued to encourage Tigers to voice their concerns.
“It’s common for students to routinely stop by my office, email, or send direct messages via social media. I keep an open-door policy because their concerns will always remain a priority to the success of Grambling State.”
Grambling football players critical of GSU president, others in letter