Grambling beats MVSU for first win

Johnathan Williams accounted for seven touchdowns to lead Grambling State to its first win of the season, 47-40 over Mississippi Valley State Saturday.

Williams threw five touchdown passes and had a quarterback sneak for another score to put Grambling St. (1-9, 1-6 SWAC) ahead 40-24, its largest lead, with one quarter remaining.

Patrick Ivy pulled MVSU (1-8, 1-6) within one score with a 5-yard run to open the fourth quarter. Williams answered on the next series with a 60-yard drive, capped by his 11-yard TD run to put the Tigers up 47-32.

Williams was 18 of 31 for 265 yards passing while connecting with ten different receivers. He also rushed for 54 yards on 15 carries.

Ivy led the Delta Devils with two passing and two rushing touchdowns. He was 15 of 35 for 266 yards, including a 41-yard TD pass.

A nearly weeklong boycott by the Grambling football team last month, including forfeiting its game at Jackson State, made more people aware of the campus’s financial struggles and drummed up interest from donors around the country, Grambling’s president said recently.

Grambling President Frank Pogue told the University of Louisiana System board that oversees the historically black college that ”it’s a rarity for any athletic team to come together to abandon their commitment to an institution by walking off the field. It’s a very unique experience. But we’re using this as an opportunity of learning, a teachable moment.”

Pogue said he’s used the national attention Grambling has received as a way to highlight campus academic and facility needs and that the complaints lodged by football players about inadequate facilities are symptomatic of larger financial troubles on campus.

The university, like all public colleges around Louisiana, has been hit with repeated budget cuts from the state since 2008. Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal have stripped $690 million in state funding from higher education, a 48 percent reduction. Tuition increases have only partially filled the gap.

Pogue said Grambling’s state financing has been slashed 57 percent, and he said that fell on top of disparities in funding that already exist across the nation for historically black colleges and universities.

”If you want to be helpful to Grambling, write a check,” he said.

Grambling’s players staged the boycott because of many issues with university leaders, including the school’s rundown facilities, long bus trips to road games and coaching changes.

University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley said Grambling’s financial woes are worst in the nine-campus system because the school had fewer reserves to plug budget holes, no large endowments to tap and a small student body.

”The financial situation at Grambling is severe,” she said.

Meanwhile, a backlog of deferred maintenance on the state’s college campuses has reached $1.8 billion, with only modest state funding allocated to chip away at the list and all of the campuses competing for the limited funds.

Pogue said the football team’s walk-out was prompting Grambling to do a comprehensive review of its academic facilities, student services, athletics and financial needs.

He said he’s already received hundreds of emails and phone calls from alumni and business leaders offering support. Donations weren’t pouring in yet, but Pogue said he’s telling people the best support they can give is a financial contribution.

Woodley said she was hopeful the state’s funding for higher education was stabilizing, but she said the UL System didn’t have new funds to offer as a quick fix for Grambling. She said her office will work with Pogue on the campus-wide financial review, with an eye toward finding ways to increase private donations and negotiating more dollars for athletics.

”This challenging week has sort of awakened alumni all over the nation who care very much for Grambling and for Grambling students, and the fundraising is starting to increase. We are hopeful that some additional private money from those who care about the plights of Grambling will come in to help us with some of the issues,” Woodley said.