Grambling State president retiring

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Grambling State University President Frank Pogue, during  a Louisiana System board meeting Monday at which Pogue addressed the room, at the Claiborne Building in Baton Rouge. Grambling players voted Monday to return to practice, after deciding not to play the team's scheduled game against Jackson State on Saturday, resulting in a forfeit.
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Grambling State University President Frank Pogue, during a Louisiana System board meeting Monday at which Pogue addressed the room, at the Claiborne Building in Baton Rouge. Grambling players voted Monday to return to practice, after deciding not to play the team's scheduled game against Jackson State on Saturday, resulting in a forfeit.

Five years after taking over one of the state’s most financially unstable universities, Grambling State University President Frank Pogue is stepping down, effective June 30.

Pogue made public his decision to retire Friday, at the end of a year in which the university made national news — in a bad way.

Upset over the firing of popular head coach Doug Williams, rundown facilities, dilapidated equipment and long bus trips to and from road games, the football team went on strike.

It stopped practicing for a week, then later refused to get on a bus, forfeiting a game against Jackson State University.

Pogue shook off that bit of controversy Friday, saying those incidents don’t define the university.

“The only thing I can tell you is that I see nothing wrong with having a situation where football players choose to express their rights,” he said. “I grew up during a segregated period. I fought for equality and access to a quality education and you name it.”

“I looked at it as these young men expressing their freedom of speech,” he added. “I would not try to prevent students from expressing their views.”

Pogue said he wouldn’t do anything different.

While some may remember Pogue’s tenure from last fall’s minor revolt, University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley said his work as an administrator should be the takeaway.

“He came in at a time when there was great instability at Grambling,” Woodley said. “He gave up five years of his retirement to put his energies into Grambling.”

After stints working as a university president or interim president in Cobleskill, N.Y., Edinboro, Pa., and at Chicago State University, Pogue came out of his then-third retirement to take over at Grambling.

He started at a time when the university was coming off of nearly a dozen negative audits from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office and during a time when the state was slashing college budgets. Grambling has lost 57 percent of its state funding since 2008.

“When I came in, I had 10 goals. One of them was to restore financial integrity to Grambling,” Pogue said. “We had to convince the state of Louisiana we had the capacity to manage state funds.”

Pogue said Grambling’s audits have come back “clean” the last three years in a row.

On his legacy, he said he’s comfortable leaving at a time when the university’s enrollment is stable at just more than 5,000 students, all 47 of its academic programs have been accredited and faculty numbers have been maintained.

“I’m quite convinced the person who replaces me will come into an institution on the rise,” he said. “Grambling is 113 years old, and it will be good for at least another 113 years.”

Pogue said his immediate plans after leaving Grambling will be to go back to his work as a private consultant recruiting and grooming university presidents.

Woodley, who oversees the nine-school system of which Grambling is a member, said she doesn’t have a timeline for the UL System Board of Supervisors to name a new president.

“We will have a search committee, we will hire a search firm and we will follow the normal process,” Woodley said. “I’m excited about Grambling’s future. I’m excited to find the next leader.”