Grambling State has fired its volleyball coach a scant five months after hiring Chelsey Lucas, who created a firestorm by cutting virtually the entire team and revoking scholarships – with the initial support of athletic director Dr. Trayvean Scott.
She did not go quietly.
The announcement was made Tuesday by President Rick Gallot and Scott, who also has the title of vice president for intercollegiate athletics. Findings in an ongoing internal investigation sparked the firing, according to GSU’s press release, which noted that additional comment going forward “will be held until the conclusion of the investigation.”
“It is the responsibility of this institution to make sure that student-athletes are afforded opportunities in a manner compliant with all regulatory organizations,” Gallot said. “That applies to athletics as much as it does to academics.”
“The success of student-athletes and their ability to matriculate at Grambling State University is the top priority,” Scott said. “As we move forward in this transition and commence a national search for the next coach, all volleyball student-athletes who received scholarships for the 2022-23 academic year will keep their scholarships and remain on the team. Walk-ons will also continue to hold their roster spots.”
On Feb. 14, Scott hired Lucas, head coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the past three seasons and a former Grambling player who was the 2006 Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. It didn’t take long for trouble to surface and for media outlets nationally to pick up on the discord, forcing Lucas and Grambling’s Athletic Department to issue a statement.
“I met with my team, each student-athlete, individually to discuss my plans moving forward with the Grambling State University volleyball program. My decision was to not bring back some of the current student-athletes on the team. While student-athletes are granted athletic scholarships, a scholarship is not guaranteed and (is) not binding, per NCAA rules and regulations,” her statement said at the time.
Scott authorized another statement that stood behind Lucas and the highly-unusual decision.
Former player Sheila Borders used social media to criticize Scott, Lucas and other administrators for a “classless, vindictive and disrespectful act” of cutting players that “has (left) me drained, emotionally heartbroken, overwhelmed, stressed and sick to my stomach.”
A petition calling for scholarships to be reinstated has almost 3,800 signatures. However, Lucas apparently filled her 12 scholarship slots with new players, and while a few of the 2021 squad members, approaching graduation, chose to stay as walk-on, non-scholarship competitors, there is no NCAA recourse or waiver to permit their scholarships being renewed for 2022-23.
In early May, Grambling announced it hired “the national law office of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard and Smith LLP to conduct an independent review of allegations involving the women’s volleyball program. The review will be led by counsel who are experienced in legal matters involving intercollegiate athletics and NCAA compliance. A final report will be presented to GSU President Rick Gallot. As appropriate, any findings will be shared publicly.”
Tuesday, almost exactly two months later, Grambling dismissed Lucas. She later shared her perspective in a statement sent to Shreveport’s KSLA-TV, saying since she was hired, she was ordered not to speak to the media.
“My voice has unfortunately been silenced despite the rumors and accusations about me. As a result, I have not been able to provide my side of the story …. I was told today, without notice or any opportunity for discussion, that I was being terminated …. The administration was not able to provide me any details about why they decided to fire me.
“This termination came just days after I had requested and then had a meeting with the President to discuss the way I had been treated in recent weeks by the Athletic Director. The AD, without me knowing in advance, was invited to this meeting with the President. The AD was visibly upset at my complaints during my meeting with the President, and today I was informed that he was the one who recommended my termination. I will be working with my attorney to prepare a response, and believe that my side of this story will demonstrate that what happened to me today was not right or just.”
Scott, hired just over a year ago on July 1, also fired veteran football coach and former Grambling player Broderick Fobbs in November, two weeks before the Bayou Classic that the Tigers won under an interim coach. Scott introduced former NFL head coach Hue Jackson as the new head football coach in December, but another controversy emerged early this year when Jackson hired — apparently with Scott’s approval — disgraced former Baylor coach Art Briles.
Four days after Briles was announced as offensive coordinator, reaction from outraged alumni — including former head coach and Hall of Fame quarterback Doug Williams — led to Briles’ resignation.
With reporting by the Lincoln Parish Journal
Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Parish Journal