Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jackson State plans to sue Grambling over cancelled football game

The show of unity by Grambling State football players has garnered widespread media attention across the nation. However, their protest could also wind up costing the university huge bucks.

On Saturday, Grambling State players refused to travel to Jackson State to participate in their regularly scheduled game, and subsequently forfeited. Now, Jackson State leaders plan to take legal action, because they claim the school took a financial hit after being forced to cancel the game.

Here is the message the school sent out to alumni and supporters Tuesday:

"The JSU family was damaged. Our Homecoming game draws tens of thousands of fans. The university intends to use litigation to be made whole for our direct and indirect financial losses," Eric Stringfellow, executive director of Jackson State University Communications, wrote.

"We have a fiduciary responsibility to Mississippi taxpayers and the JSU community to mitigate our ongoing and substantial losses. Jackson State plans to pursue litigation against Grambling State and others."

Jackson State sold tickets up until late Friday afternoon for its homecoming game against Southwestern Athletic Conference rival Grambling State, which had told Jackson State officials and the media that the school would field a team for Saturday's game despite a chaotic week that included a walkout by players and its second head coaching change of the season.

But after players — who began the boycott after a blow out with the Grambling State administration in an Oct. 15 meeting — failed to board the bus to Jackson scheduled to leave late Friday afternoon, Grambling forfeited.

"Grambling repeatedly assured us its team would travel to Jackson. Late Friday afternoon, they informed us their student athletes would not travel to Jackson for our scheduled game," Stringfellow wrote. "We have dealt in good faith with Grambling and the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The actions of both have hurt JSU."

"We had every reason to believe that our players would show up at (3:30 p.m. Friday). There wasn't any other thinking," Grambling State spokesman Will Sutton said Tuesday night. "We heard from folks that they were going to show up."

Stringfellow said the financial losses for the school and city are substantial. The school is refunding tickets to fans and local businesses also reported losses.

"Jackson State University's and the city of Jackson's losses could be in the millions," he wrote.

Jackson State's decision to seek legal action is not a surprise to Grambling State.

"We did realize the gravity of the options of what could happen if our players did not show up at 3:30 p.m. on Friday," Sutton said.