Louisiana Officials Mounted Fierce EffortTo Keep Williams at Grambling
Despite failure, officials agree it was worth the tryBy Scott Dyer
BATON ROUGE, La.
University of Louisiana System President Sally Clausen did her best to talk Grambling State University football coach Doug Williams into staying at the historically Black university. But Clausen couldn’t talk the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into releasing the former Grambling and NFL star quarterback from the contract that he signed Feb. 12 to become the team’s personnel executive.
Clausen and several members of the University of Louisiana board that oversees Grambling flew to Tampa to try and convince Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen to allow Williams to remain at Grambling for at least two more years. Clausen said she explained the important role that football is playing in Grambling’s recovery.
Clausen said Allen listened politely to the group for about an hour before making it clear that he was not going to let Williams out of the contract.
“He (Allen) told us, ‘You all are losing a legend, but I am gaining a powerhouse,” Clausen said.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Williams said he was frustrated over Grambling’s inability to provide funding for the football program’s needs.
Willaims said he submitted a list of needs ranging from an extra assistant coach to more money to maintain the school’s football field, but never received a response.
Despite her lack of success, Clausen said she wanted to leave no stone unturned in her attempt to keep Williams at Grambling.
“Far too often, we allow talent to walk out of the door without challenge. We were not going to allow that to happen in this case,” Clausen said. “I just wish that we had been able to discuss the Buccaneers’ offer with Williams prior to Thursday. Maybe we could have convinced him to stay (at Grambling),” Clausen said.
Williams announced Feb. 12 that he was leaving Grambling to work in the Bucs front office. Clausen said she immediately called Williams and tried to talk him out of leaving.
“I really felt convinced after talking to him that if given the opportunity, he (Williams) would reconsider,” Clausen said.
Williams was making an annual base salary of about $130,000 at Grambling, Clausen said. Even though the Bucs have not released what they are paying Williams, Clausen said she believes she could have made a competitive counteroffer with the help of Grambling alumni.
“From what I knew, it (the offer made to Williams) was not so extraordinary that I couldn’t come back and renegotiate with him,” Clausen said.
Clausen said she flew to Tampa with UL Board Chairman Michael Woods and several other board members in Woods’ private plane to meet with Allen. Clausen said she took some leave to make the trip so there would be no state funds involved in her effort to retain Williams.
Woods said later it was worth the time and effort to try to retain Williams because the football legend would have been a major benefit for the next Grambling president.
“It would have been irresponsible of us to let him go without a public plea to keep him,” Woods said of Williams.
Woods noted that Williams’ football program has emerged as an important part of Grambling’s recent recovery. Grambling has had a rough ride the past few years, losing its former president and nearly losing its academic accreditation because of financial woes. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools officially lifted Grambling’s probation in December, assuring the school will continue to offer its students federal aid (see Black Issues, Jan. 1). Last month, a national search kicked off to find a permanent president for Grambling.
In announcing his new job with the Bucs, Williams acknowledged that it was difficult to leave his alma mater.
“Grambling has been good for me, and I hope I’ve been good for Grambling. We still have to go on,” Williams said.
Williams said he waited until after recruiting season was over to resign from Grambling. Williams had coached Grambling since 1997, when he replaced legendary coach Eddie Robinson. Williams played quarterback for the Bucs from 1978-1982 and later won the Most Valuable Player award in Super Bowl XXII with the Washington Redskins.
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