The inexplicable firing of legend Doug Williams as coach led to murmurs of discontent, an uprising by the Grambling football players, and now the firing of Williams’ interim replacement, George Ragsdale.
Defensive coordinator Dennis (Dirt) Winston was named interim coach, while Ragsdale will be reassigned in the athletic department.
This only transpired because the players not only voiced their concerns to the school’s administration, but backed up their position by boycotting practice. According to the Shreveport Times, the players met with administrators Tuesday to complain about having to travel by bus instead of plane to games in Kansas City, Mo., and Indianapolis, and about the firing of Williams in September.
Sources told the newspaper that the meeting “became increasingly negative” and that the players walked out.
They then did not show up for practice Wednesday afternoon.
According to multiple reports, players appeared ready to boycott practice Thursday, too.
The Times reported that one of the conditions for the players to end their boycott was that Ragsdale, who started the season as the running backs coach, be relieved of his coaching duties.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that players were seen leaving the intramural facility around 6 p.m. Thursday and Winston said practice had concluded.
“[The administration] knew that emotions were raw,” school spokesman Will Sutton said Wednesday, the day before Ragsdale was relieved of his duties, according to the Times. “No matter what, it was going to be a challenge for the team to feel good after this season and last season. That’s part of the reason why we have a new [athletic director] and are looking for a new football coach.
“The president wanted to make a point that the university supports and appreciates the team and these students, and that the administration will do everything we need to do for the future success of the program.”
The Tigers (0-7, 0-4 SWAC) play at Jackson State (5-2, 5-0) on Saturday. The game is expected to go on as scheduled. Williams was fired after the Tigers lost their first two games by a combined score of 71-19. Grambling State went 1-10 last season.
Winston played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints after a college career at Arkansas. During the 1990s, Winston served two stints at Grambling as an assistant to college Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson. Athletic director Aaron James says Winston has the ability to “tone things down and get the program up and running smoothly.”