Jackson St holds homecoming, Grambling forfeits

Grambling’s decision not to travel to Jackson State for

Saturday’s football game did not stop the homecoming festivities on

the Mississippi campus.

The music was blaring, the barbecue roasting and good times were

all around outside of Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium on

Saturday morning.

It looked like a typical JSU homecoming celebration, complete

with gorgeous 70-degree weather, a parade and – of course – a

performance by the school’s popular marching band, the Sonic Boom

of the South.

The game between Grambling (0-8) and Jackson State (6-2) was

canceled and declared a forfeit on Friday after disgruntled

Grambling players refused to travel from their Louisiana campus

because of issues they have with leaders of the athletic department

and the university.

”It’s not the way I really like to win, but I’ll take it,”

Jackson State coach Rick Comegy said on Saturday. ”I feel sorry

for our kids, the seniors, who are playing their last homecoming

game, not having the opportunity to have their families enjoy it

like in the past.”

Grambling spokesman Will Sutton said Saturday that players were

given the weekend off and are scheduled to practice Monday. He says

university officials are meeting this weekend, and are in touch

with several players on the football team, in an effort to try and

reach a resolution to the unusual situation.

Grambling’s entire athletic program has struggled amid budget

cuts and scholarship reductions. The football team recently

traveled by bus to recent games in Kansas City and Indianapolis and

the men’s basketball team was 0-28 last season.

The football team has been through two coaching changes this

season. Doug Williams was fired after just two games and interim

coach George Ragsdale was replaced by Dennis ”Dirt” Winston on

Thursday.

Grambling football players reportedly walked out of a

contentious meeting with administration on Tuesday because of

differences on how the program should be run. Players skipped

practice on Wednesday and Thursday and then didn’t make the 2

1/2-hour trip to Jackson on Friday.

Sutton confirmed one of the players’ concerns was about travel.

The team recently took buses to games in Kansas City and

Indianapolis.

”When you have your budget slashed by 57 percent, you have to

make choices,” Sutton said, adding that the school would ”love”

to fly the team on long away games but that Grambling was

contractually obligated to take its band, cheerleaders and dance

team on those trips. He said those obligations led to the difficult

choice to put everyone on buses.

Southwestern Athletic Conference Commissioner Duer Sharp said

the situation was unusual, and to his knowledge, a first for the

conference. He said Grambling would be fined, according to league

rules.

Sutton said the Grambling plans to play its scheduled home game

next Saturday against Texas Southern. It is the school’s annual

High School Day, which draws in many prospective students from

around the region.

With the forfeit to Jackson State, Grambling has now lost 18

straight games against NCAA opponents.

Some Jackson State fans at homecoming supported Grambling’s

players.

”I give them some respect for taking a stand and they’ve got to

handle their business,” Jackson State fan Mario Williams said.

”But they’ve got to understand it’s disappointed a lot of

people.”

Other fans weren’t so sympathetic.

”It’s a bunch of bull,” said Edward Davis, a 1977 Jackson

State graduate. ”You don’t just decide when you’re going to play a

football game. This affects a lot of people from both schools.

There are people who are losing money. There are people who planned

vacations for this – people who travel a long way.”

Larry Green was one of those travelers, making his yearly 3-hour

trip from Memphis, Tenn. The 1980 Jackson State graduate was

helping friends cook on the grill outside of his tent.

”We were already here when we found out the game was

canceled,” Green said. ”We’ll have fun no matter what, but it’s

very disappointing for everyone. The football game’s a big part of

homecoming.

”It’s got to be hurting a lot of people financially.”

It’s been a logistical nightmare for Jackson State, which

usually draws at least 20,000 fans to homecoming. The school

decided to have a short scrimmage at the stadium that fans could

attend for free, while working on refunds for those who had already

bought tickets.

Jackson State’s athletic budget is around $6 million and the

school relies heavily on football revenue.

AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Louisiana contributed to this

report

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