In his first public appearance since being fired, former Grambling coach Doug Williams said off-field issues, not on-field performance, was the reason he was let go as the Tigers' coach Sept. 11.
Appearing on NFL Network's "GameDay First" on Sunday morning, Williams - - a former longtime NFL quarterback - - said there were two groups affiliated with Grambling who were trying to raise money for the football program and hinted that Grambling president Frank Pogue didn't like that the fundraising was done outside the administration's purview. Williams didn't refer to Pogue by name during the interview.
Media reports have said the money raised by the groups - - called Friends of Football and Grambling Legends - - was used exclusively on the football program, which also reportedly upset Pogue.
Numerous media reports have said the money raised was used on matters that would be considered mundane at most schools - - making repairs on the football field, new floors in the locker room and the like. Williams, 58, reiterated that Sunday, saying, "We were doing some of the things the school now has to do."
While there have been reports that Pogue was worried about NCAA rules being violated, Williams - - a Grambling alum - - said the fundraising groups followed rules and talked Sunday of receipts and meetings with the school's facilities staff to discuss renovations.
The controversy didn't end with Williams' dismissal, and Williams said Pogue was partly to blame for that, too. He said "no one came out and talked to the kids" after he was fired, and "five weeks later, the president finally decided to come to the players." The players walked out of that meeting and ended up boycotting Grambling's Oct. 19 game against Jackson State.
Williams said he had no idea the boycott was coming. His son, D.J., is Grambling's quarterback, but Williams admitted that he "very seldom" saw his son after his dismissal. Williams said he was at dinner with his mother and sister in Zachary, La., when he received a text message about the boycott.
In announcing the boycott, players complained of unsafe conditions, including unclean showers that led to numerous staph infections; long bus rides to road games, including a trip to Indianapolis; poor athletic department management; and Williams' firing.
Williams said that when asked by a player what the group should do after the boycotted game, he answered, "Hey, man, go play football." The players returned to practice Oct. 21.
Grambling played Saturday, but despite two TD passes from D.J. Williams, the Tigers lost in overtime to Texas Southern to fall to 0-9 this season.
Williams was in his second tour of duty with Grambling when he was fired. He previously coached the Tigers from 1998-2003, compiling a 53-17 record before leaving for a front office job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He worked for the Bucs from 2004-2010, then returned to the Tigers in 2011 and promptly guided them to an 8-4 mark and the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship. But Grambling has lost 17 of its 18 games since then.
Williams said Grambling "can become competitive with the right people in place." But he said that other than remaining a Grambling fan, he would not be associated with the school.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.