At SWAC Media day last week, current Grambling State head coach Doug Williams answered my prayers by stepping to the forefront to chastise the conference for the way it has conducted business not only in recent months, but in recent years.
This year has featured everything from lawsuits, firings, NCAA investigations to bans, suspensions and prostitution stings.
Williams, who played for Robinson at Grambling in the 1970s, gave the impression he is fed up with it all.
“If we keep doing business the way we’ve done it, we are going to put ourselves right out of business,” Williams told reporters. “We, as a league, have to do a better job.”
If that isn’t leadership material, I don’t know what is. Williams, who has a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins and has worked in the front-office at the NFL level, knows what it takes to be successful.
And the SWAC member schools can’t continue to put themselves behind the eight ball with off-the-field misconduct by leaders and coaches, failures by the athletes in the classroom and mismanagement of contracts and other dealings by suits and administrators.
This is not a BCS conference where mistakes and missteps are overlooked due to pedigree, prestige or the financial investment in certain schools by networks or even political influence.
The SWAC, the little black conference in the south, where the bands have more cache than the teams on the field, doesn’t have that kind of leeway.
The big boys don’t have to cry over spilled milk because someone will always clean up the mess. The SWAC has no such luxury. If the 10-team league spills its milk, not only do the guilty parties have to clean it up, but are sent to their rooms without dinner and restricted from participating in postseason games.
Maybe that’s why Williams decided to come back to his alma mater for a second tour of duty. To help pave the way — the right way not just for his Tigers, but for Jaguars, Braves, Delta Devils, and even the decision makers in Birmingham.
“If people look at my return to Grambling and the SWAC as something the conference needed, I don’t shy away from it. I don’t mind it. Too many great people, great players and great coaches have been part of this league. We owe it to them to lift this league back up. If I can be part of the uplifting, then I look forward to it.”
Attitudes like Williams is what HBCU athletics in general need. A foundation needs to be constructed on solid ground. Not shaky ground. There should be no room for the status quo. No time for just enough to get by. None of this trying to take advantage of a situation just because there is some type of racial connection, and faults will be overlooked as a result.
Considering the SWAC is an a predominately black run league, those in leadership positions should expect even more. Be even tougher and raise the bar higher.
If Williams wants to be the example and the face of the SWAC, there is no better candidate in my opinion.
Williams made history some 24 years ago in becoming the first black starting quarterback to win a NFL championship.
It appears Williams has his sights sets on loftier goals for a league he has been part of for so many years.
That’s what great quarterbacks do. They stare down the barrel of an on-coming blitz as the pocket is collapsing around them to make a play. Williams is in a similar position as he tries to lead Grambling and the SWAC back to prominence.