BASN Sportsmen of the Year 2013
By Anthony McClean, Editor – in – Chief, Emeritus
I think our young men this year got some things accomplished by stepping out of the box, doing some things that you normally don’t do. A lot of people got behind them from that. I’m proud of them for doing that. I actually cried because I saw myself in that position years ago. And to see them in the position they were in this year just really brought tears to my eyes.’’
– Former Grambling State head coach Dennis “Dirt” Winston.
NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM): When looking back at some of the top sports moments in 2013, we’re always reminded of the usual suspects.
From the Ravens’ Super Bowl run, through Louisville’s double titles in college hoops and baseball, and the back-to-back miracle finishes at Auburn University, 2013 was another eventful year in pro and college sports.
However, when I look back at the most significant sports moment of the past 12 months I can’t help but look back in deep respect to the actions of the Grambling State University football team.
When you realize the seemingly daily barrage of scorn and ridicule that many young (and older) black men get in mainstream media these days, the stand that these student-athletes took was very admirable.
While this season was one of the worst years on the field in school history, their 1-11 record was just a small barometer as to what was privately going on and off the field.
However, it did lead to a defining moment for the university and the young Tigers. For those who may have forgotten the true facts of the incident, allow us to remind you.
Shortly after former standout QB Doug Williams was fired as head coach in September, the Tigers squad (already frustrated by Williams’ dismissal) requested a meeting with university officials — both academic and athletic.
Not only were they seeking some clarity on Williams’ dismissal, the players also wanted to raise concerns about the team’s below average training conditions and their recent travel arrangements to road games.
Several media reports stated that the GSU weight room had the look of not being renovated for many years. It was also reported that the team took long bus trips to road games as far away as Kansas City and Indianapolis, some 650 and 750 miles away from campus, respectively.
For the latter of those trips, the team left campus at 6 p.m. on a Thursday night and did not arrive in Indianapolis until 9 a.m. on Friday for a Saturday game according to SI.com.
This all came to a head in late October when the Tigers were scheduled to travel Jackson State. Without a resolution to their grievances, the GSU players walked out of a meeting with the school brass and decided not to play their SWAC rivals.
While many national media yokels tried to pass the Tigers off as “spoiled brats” and “over-privileged athletes”, I and many others saw this not a random act of defiance, but a group of student-athletes who truly realized the power that they hold.
When you realize the recent college sports scandals of the past few years, the student-athletes have at times been unfairly depicted as kids taking advantage of a system that has been “out of control”.
Whether you’re talking about the “tats for pants” program at Ohio State, Dez Bryant and Deion Sanders sharing of a Fatburger, or Johnny Football’s expensive penmanship, mainstream media always has felt the need to demonize the kids involved; especially if they’re African-American athletes!
The real message that was missed in regards to the Grambling State incident is the real power that all student-athletes all really hold.
When you have an athletic organization (i.e., the NCAA) that still uses a 1940′s mentality while raking in a 2013 payroll — and using a non-profit status — trying rule and exploit those athletes with iron fists.
Then you add college presidents and other officials who look to get their pounds of flesh as well, it points to even more exploitation of these “student-athletes”. And yes, I can hear all of their supporters saying “Hey! They get a free education!”
Let’s get really real. If those kids weren’t talented athletes, would State U be even looking at those kids? And also, when you look at the gobs of money generated by college football and college basketball compared to a scholarship — which must be approved by these very same powers that be every year?
To quote that scholar Chad Ocho Cinco (aka Chad Johnson), “Child, please!!”
I think the best quote that really sums up the entire incident comes from Ramogi Huma, the President of the National College Players Association, a college athlete advocacy group that became very visible just after the GSU affair.
Speaking to USA Today, Huma said that Grambling players “came together to identify various issues to have their voices heard.”
“At the end of the day, without the players, there’s an empty stadium. That’s the real power that they and all student-athletes have. And at Grambling State, they decided to wield it”.
Just between you and me, don’t think that others aren’t watching this as well.