This edition of Six Points covers a lot of ground, from Grambling coach Rod Broadway’s comments during Tuesday’s Southwestern Athletic Conference media day, to the school’s youthful new baseball coach; from negotiations over a future date versus nearby FBS program Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, to the recent Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Tech athletics director Derek Dooley now confirms talks to square off against Grambling in a first-ever cross-parish football rivalry game to take place in the 2010 season. It’s politically astute to play this one at a neutral site, and even smarter to settle on Independence Stadium — since Shreveport has always been a market that both schools covet. Combine that with the steady improvement each program has seen since hiring new coaches in 2007, and I think this one is going to make the Grambling game at ULM from that same season, which set a school attendance record in Monroe, look like a dress rehearsal.
James “Shack” Harris is Grambling’s football griot, both a tireless pitchman and country preacher for its storied history. Whereever he goes, he commands an audience — to the point where teammates urge him to recount age-old stories in which they are the main character. So, moments like last weekend’s Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies find him completely in his element, weaving plots that both intrigue and delight. The best one, for me, was his introduction of former Grambling and San Diego Chargers teammate Charlie Joiner, part of the inaugural class of honorees. Shack said: “When I got to Grambling, (the late GSU) Coach (Eddie) Robinson taught me how to read defenses. He said, ‘If they’ve got three guys on Charlie, throw it to the other side.’ I never asked what I should do if there were two guys on him. So finally, one day, I said, ‘Coach Rob, what do I do if there are only two guys on him?’ Coach said, ‘Throw it to him. Charlie’s gonna be wide open. …”
Easily the biggest surprise of Saturday night’s festivities was the appearance of Grambling school president Horace Judson. Don’t get me wrong, it was appropriate, just unexpected. He’s long had a shaky relationship with the major players in the Grambling Legends group, and could have easily judged this new inaugural induction event as a personal afront — since GSU has its own hall. Instead, he embraced the moment and then rose to it, taking the stage to say: “Grambling is what it is today, because of the people being honored here.”
There is always some measure of controversy surrounding the All-SWAC selections, and this week’s preseason poll was no different. Grambling defender Desmond Lenard, who led the league with 6 interceptions in 2008, didn’t make first- or second-team. Meanwhile, we find among the honorees Texas Southern defensive back De’Markus Washington — who has reportedly transferred to Stillman.
TDR reader Darren Chambers echoed a widely repeated question about James Cooper, born in the first Reagan administration and now the fifth baseball coach ever at Grambling: “I have a little concern about his age. …” The administration had competing issues with the departure of third-year coach Barret Rey — one, the lateness of his resignation, just a month before school reconvenes; the other, a budget crunch that has crippled the athletic department. On both counts, Cooper was the right choice: He’s familiar with the program as a former player and graduate assistant, making a quick transition more likely; and I’m guessing he came at a more reasonable price than a candidate garnered by national search. That said, Cooper has but one year to snuff out larger concerns over his ability to lead the team. They’re not calling him an interim coach but, for all intents and purposes, that’s what this is.
Grambling football coach Rod Broadway is stressing humility for his defending SWAC and black college national championship team — both in words and deeds. “The thing we’ve got to do is stay hungry,” Broadway keeps saying. He and his player designates then showed up for the league’s media day on Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala., without their championship rings, a move so rare as to spark wonderment over the previous time it had happened. “Last year doesn’t help you a bit this year,” Broadway insisted. “You’ve got to go out and perform in the moment.” Those bare fingers illustrate how focused he is on avoiding the temptation to rest on Grambling’s laurels.