Grambing State football stadium
Photo: Grambling State University Athletics

“Everybody’s got a price” was the catchphrase of former rasslin’ supervillain Ted DiBiase.

That message has seemingly made its way to HBCU football.

In a sense, this is could be an unforeseen consequence of the trend in some schools hiring so-called celebrity coaches.

The waves made by Deion Sanders at Jackson State and Eddie George at Tennessee State, and the push to bring HBCU athletics to a greater spotlight, has caused some to consider hiring folks that were seemingly part of unwritten pacts against them getting jobs in college athletics.

It is sort of like when Batman pulled up in “Batman Begins” and started beating up criminals, only for those criminals to hire The Joker in “The Dark Knight” … to disastrous results for them.

According to media reports, Grambling head coach Hue Jackson brought on John Simon as an assistant in December. This was after Simon left Memphis near the start of 2021 spring practice amid a sexual misconduct allegation.

This week, Jackson hired former Baylor head coach Art Briles to the Tigers staff as the new offensive coordinator after then-offensive coordinator Ted White accepted a job with the Houston Texans.

A quick Google search for Briles provides a snapshot on why the decision has been met with controversy for some in the HBCU world and the sports world in general.

Meanwhile, former LSU wide receiver Drake Davis enrolled at Southern after being dismissed from the LSU program before the 2018 season.

According to The Advocate, the dismissal came after Davis was arrested on two counts of battery on a dating partner in August 2018. He left LSU altogether after getting kicked off the football team.

Then-coach Dawson Odums confirmed in October 2019 that Davis was enrolled at Southern but was not a part of the football program.

Also read: Doug Williams ‘very disappointed’ Grambling State hired Art Briles

Davis later thanked Southern in a now-deleted tweet for giving him an opportunity but was not clear what that opportunity was.

Some outlets interpreted the tweet as an announcement that Davis would try to resume his collegiate career at Southern. According to the university, Davis was admitted for the Spring 2022 semester. The conflict I see with HBCU fan is as follows:

HBCU fan, for years, has said things in casual conversations, message boards and social media such as “we don’t do things like them white folks,” or We’re a family. We care about our kids, Or “It’s not just “run N-word run” over here.

We venerate the Eddie Robinsons, Jake Gaithers, A.W. Mumfords, John Merritts and others because they — on the surface — didn’t operate like prominent white football coaches at predominantly white institutions.

Some HBCU fans have voiced their displeasure at the Briles hire, saying it sends a bad message to their Black female students.

Art Briles
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Some viewed the news positively in the vein of “eff that! He’s gonna help us win games and get a Celebration Bowl berth.

Could your HBCU handle a Baylor rape scandal? Or handle the smoke from prominent football player being accused of rape like Georgia linebacker Adam Anderson?

We already don’t have influential people in those newsrooms and other levers of power in our communities to help sweep things under the rug.

The powers of access journalism that shield and insulate schools don’t work for HBCUs as they do their PWI counterparts.

It took a USA Today investigation, not the Baton Rouge-based Advocate, to blow the doors off the LSU sexual assault quagmire that involved Davis and cost Ed Orgeron his job.

Hell, the hazing death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion brought forth a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools — the folks that accredit colleges throughout the South — investigation and placed FAMU on probation for two years.  

That was the freakin’ marching band. Do you think a student organization at a PWI will do something that opens the door for an accreditation agency investigation?

The underlying question is: Are our schools — and their fans — prepared to pay the blood price for athletics glory? Are they ready to look the other way a little more than they did in the past?

For years, HBCU fans vilified PWI athletics as everything from plantations to stockyards to houses of ill repute. Now that Briles is at Grambling, have HBCUs and HBCU fans lived long enough in the athletics landscape to become the villains themselves?



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