Jackson State ‘plans to pursue litigation’ against Grambling

The boycott is over, players have returned to practice, and Grambling’s football season will resume Saturday.

But the headaches keep coming.

Jackson State said late Tuesday night that Grambling’s forfeit of Saturday’s homecoming game could cost JSU and the city of Jackson, Miss., millions, and that it “plans to pursue litigation against Grambling State and others.”

Eric Stringfellow, Jackson State’s director of university communications, talked about the financial losses by the school and the city in a message on JSU’s website. Jackson State’s homecoming game routinely draws at least 20,000 fans. The school replaced the game with a short scrimmage but is still refunding money for thousands of tickets.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to Mississippi taxpayers and the JSU community to mitigate our ongoing and substantial losses,” Stringfellow wrote in the message. The statement also said the school plans to sue Grambling.

“Grambling’s issues are well documented and long standing,” Stringfellow continued. “Those issues, however, are not JSU’s issues nor are these JSU’s responsibility.”

Grambling’s players said they staged the boycott — which is over now — because of many issues with the university, including its leadership, the school’s run-down facilities, long bus trips to road games and coaching changes. The players have returned to the field and are expected to play this weekend (a home game with Texas Southern), but only after forcing the university to forfeit its game against Jackson State last Saturday.

That led to Tuesday’s message from JSU — a message that also called out Southwestern Athletic Conference Commissioner Duer Sharp.

“The SWAC commissioner did not return calls from our director of athletics the entire week,” Stringfellow continued. “The Clarion-Ledger (newspaper) reported the SWAC commissioner would be meeting with folks at Grambling and JSU. We haven’t seen him, nor has he called.

“Jackson State University’s and the city of Jackson’s losses could be in the millions,” Stringfellow added. “It would be irresponsible for JSU to fail to pursue some redress.”

Sharp said during Monday’s weekly football teleconference that he would visit Jackson State.

“When something like this happens, you just want to be very thorough,” Sharp said. “Hopefully we can come to some type of resolution.”

JSU’s first task is refunding the 11,249 tickets for Saturday’s football game. Mississippi residents had until Wednesday to claim refunds.

Stringfellow said the university hopes to have more complete numbers by the end of the week but estimates that JSU will lose at least $200,000 on tickets.

Grambling spokesman Will Sutton told the Clarion-Ledger he hopes the schools can avoid legal action.

“It’s one thing to say litigation, it’s another thing to file. So if there is further action, we’ll look for the filing of the suit. And we’ll proceed from there,” Sutton said. “But we certainly meant no harm to our neighbor to the east, and we did everything we could to get everybody there (Jackson) and be an important part of their weekend celebration.”