Grambling State Athletics made national headlines in April when new volleyball head coach Chelsey Lucas was accused of non-renewing or “cutting” every Lady Tigers scholarship player.
It was a move that was immediately met with an outcry from the volleyball players, parents and many within the Grambling State fan base.
Grambling State Director of Athletics Trayvean Scott defended the move at the time, stating there was a misunderstanding of the specifics of the situation and that it was his understanding that it wasn’t the entire team.
Fast forward to Tuesday: Scott and the school’s support of Lucas has ended.
The University announced in a press release Tuesday that Lucas had been terminated following an internal investigation by a third party firm. The release also said that all volleyball student-athletes who are on scholarship for 2022-23 would remain on the team for the upcoming year.
However, that doesn’t fix the issue at hand. The scholarship athletes from the 2021-22 team that were all cut by Lucas are still on the outside looking in.
“The success of student-athletes and their ability to matriculate at Grambling State University is the top priority,” said Scott through the University’s release. “As we move forward in this transition and commence a national search for the next coach, all volleyball student-athletes who received scholarships for the 2022-23 academic year will keep their scholarships and remain on the team. Walk-ons will also continue to hold their roster spot.”
Grambling President Rick Gallot also commented on the decision through the release.
“It is the responsibility of this institution to make sure that student-athletes are afforded opportunities in a manner compliant with all regulatory organizations,” said Gallot. “That applies to athletics as much as it does to academics.”
So did Lucas act in a silo when making the decision to cut the entire team back in March? It is highly doubtful, especially when Scott made public comments in defense of Lucas’ actions.
The Lincoln Parish Journal reached out to Lucas Tuesday evening for a comment, but at press time had not received anything. And the press release sent out by Grambling State said no additional comments would be made from within the University until the investigation was completely over.
Lucas was hired Feb. 14 and over the next four to six weeks met with every returning scholarship and walk-on student-athlete. According to allegations, she communicated to every one of them that their financial aid would not be renewed.
“I met with my team, each student athlete, individually to discuss my plans moving forward with the Grambling State University volleyball program,” said Lucas in a statement released by the GSU Athletics Department in April. “My decision was to not bring back some of the current student athletes on the team. While student athletes are granted athletic scholarships, a scholarship is not guaranteed and not binding, per NCAA rules and regulations.”
Players, parents and some alums turned to social media to criticize the decision and those who were a part of it.
Sheila Borders, a senior Lady Tigers volleyball player from Harker Heights, Texas, didn’t mince words on her social media post regarding the roster decisions made by Lucas.
“I had the opportunity to go to PWIs (predominately white institution), but I chose Grambling,” read Borders’ post. “The love I have for my university and my peers is endless, but to be done dirty by a Southern University product (Scott) and a disgraceful Grambling alum (Lucas) that intentionally came to destroy my teammates is absolutely painful. I feel stuck.
“As a double major and a senior, I do not have the ability to transfer without losing credits. This will delay entrance to medical school and place unwanted stress and financial burden on my single parent mother.”
Borders went as far as to call for the termination of Scott, Lucas and additional administrators within the Grambling State Athletics Department.
However, numerous sources within the Grambling State community claimed there was a lot of “misinformation” and that not all of the 19 players were cut. According to one anonymous source “there were players who quit, players who were cut and players who were given the opportunity to try out again.”
When Scott was interviewed by KSLA a few months ago, he said “that Coach Lucas bringing (in) an entire team … is inaccurate. Let’s deal in facts. My belief is it’s four or five young ladies. I think the tone and tenor was also that she cut the entire team when in fact she attempted to keep I think four or five.”
Based on Tuesday’s decision to terminate Lucas, Scott’s assessment of the situation back in April must have been wrong; leading to the question of how did the AD not know what was transpiring within the program. Especially, when such actions can have such an impact on Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores, potentially leading to the possibility of postseason bans by the NCAA.
Finally in early May after continued publicity from local and national outlets, Grambling State announced it would hire a third party firm to handle an internal investigation into the matter. In the announcement on May 6, the University stated:
“Grambling State University has engaged the national law office of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard and Smith LLP to conduct an independent review of allegations involving the women’s volleyball program. The review will be led by counsel who are experienced in legal matters involving collegiate athletics and NCAA compliance. A final report will be presented to GSU President Rick Gallot. As appropriate, any findings will be shared publicly.”
Although none of the facts from the internal investigation were released by the University on Tuesday, Lucas was terminated.
So for now Grambling State is in the market for a new head volleyball coach. And the 2021-22 scholarship volleyball athletes are without a place on the GSU team. And plenty of questions remain on the findings of the investigation.
It’s another head-scratching move in a recent line of decisions coming from within the GSU Athletics Department that have drawn scrutiny. It began with the dismissal of former Tigers football coach Broderick Fobbs in November, leading directly to some push-back among Grambling State alums and a near revolt by some Tigers football student athletes.
A letter was sent to University of Louisiana System President Jim Henderson purported to originate from the football team, but not linked to any specific players — stacked with complaints and aimed directly at Gallot.
The letter 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).”
The national headlines continued when new head coach Hue Jackson hired former Baylor head coach Art Briles in late February, a lightning rod move that lasted less than a week. Briles resigned due to the public outcry from GSU fans, including former head coach and G-Man alum Doug Williams.
Shortly after the chatter silenced following Briles resignation, the headlines turned towards Lucas opting to non-renew an entire roster of volleyball student-athletes, a move that seemed to be supported by the Grambling State administration.
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