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Grambling’s athletics department is the very definition of a ‘hot mess’

OPINION: The university fired the volleyball coach who cut the entire team even though school officials defended her decision at the time. And if the now ex-coach gets her way, this probably won’t be the end of it.

“hot mess (noun Slang): a person or thing that is a mess, as in being disorganized, confused, or untidy, yet remains attractive or appealing.”

Dictionary.com

Don’t take it from me. Take it straight from dictionary.com. There’s even a picture of Grambling State University. 

That last sentence isn’t true. But Grambling’s athletics department fits the definition and makes for a perfect illustration. 

We thought the cray-cray peaked three months in April when new women’s volleyball coach Chelsey Lucas cut the entire team. The Tigers finished .500 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference last season, good for fifth out of 12 teams. But a department spokesperson said Lucas had “14 or 15 quality players coming on board.” 

With that, the school made making national news—again—for all the wrong reasons. Unless being clowned is the goal.

Grambling had barely recovered from its fiasco in February, hiring an assistant football coach (Art Briles) who was noted for his “incurious attitude toward potential criminal conduct by his student-athletes” as the head coach at Baylor University. Grambling endured four days of intense shaming before Briles submitted his resignation.

You’d think that was enough controversy for 2022. But you’re not athletic director Trayvean Scott. 

He wants another act as if his secret dream job is leading the drama department.

Lucas was fired Tuesday, five months after being hired. Instead of a glorious homecoming for the alum and former SWAC Defensive Player of the Year, her return was a spectacular debacle. The firing, announced by President Rick Gallot and Scott, was due to “the determination of an internal investigation within the volleyball program.”

Judging by Lucas’ response, Scott’s entire department needs to go under the microscope. Athletics has been the eye of a storm and boo-boo rolls downhill. 

Lucas issued a statement Tuesday saying the ax fell shortly after she met with Gallot “to discuss the way I had been treated in recent weeks by the Athletic Director. The AD, without me knowing in advance, was invited to this meeting with the President. The AD was visibly upset at my complaints during my meeting with the President, and today I was informed he was the one who recommended my termination.”

Too bad she’s such an unsympathetic figure. 

Even if Scott did Lucas dirty, she did the volleyball players dirty. They’re the only victims in this story, cut loose by a short-timer whose Grambling win-loss record is forever etched at 0-0.

“The success of student-athletes and their ability to matriculate at Grambling State University is the top priority,” Scott said in the statement. He didn’t say anything about the players Lucas cut, but “all volleyball student-athletes who received scholarships for the 2022-23 academic year will keep their scholarships and remain on the team.”

The last year has been quite eventful for Scott, who started his position in July 2021. He made a splash in February by hiring Hue Jackson to coach the football team, which might work out on the field. But his other big moves have been unmitigated disasters.

Scott co-signed Jackson’s job offer to Briles and engaged in a silly coverup when it leaked 24 hours early. He hired Lucas and co-signed her gutting the roster. Now Lucas claims that Scott mistreated her, and we want ALL the tea. With extra lemon and honey, please.

Lucas complains that she was prohibited from speaking to the media “despite the rumors and accusations about me.” She adds that her termination was delivered “without any notice or any opportunity for discussion” and “the administration was not able to provide me any details about why they decided to fire me.” 

Is a reality TV crew embedded in the athletics department? 

Some SWAC schools are jealous of Jackson State University and Deion Sanders, a multimedia ecosystem. If this is Grambling’s attempt to steal some of that national spotlight, it’s working!

Firing Lucas wasn’t the end. She’s been embarrassed and humiliated and she isn’t the type to go away quietly. 

“I will be working with my attorney to prepare a response, and believe that my side of this story will demonstrate that what happened to me today was not right or just,” she said.

Scott can’t make Lucas look bad and escape the splatter himself. We haven’t forgotten how small he sounded when he originally defended Lucas and bemoaned athletes’ ability to easily switch schools. 

“Just as the transfer portal empowers student-athletes, our coaches are also empowered to make the decision they deem necessary to advance their program,” he said in a statement when the volleyball players were released.

He is the chief decision-maker in athletics, charged with advancing the overall program. And Grambling remains attractive and appealing, a top HBCU brand with 120 years of history. But whether Scott gets enough time to eventually steady the ship moving forward, one thing is abundantly clear right now.

Grambling is a hot mess, with the end nowhere in sight.

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at blackdoorventures.com/deron.

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