SHREVEPORT, La. (KMSS/KTAL) – It was a tweet sent out by the Southern Shreveport Jags Twitter account on October 17 that raised eyebrows in the local football community.
It’s mid-October. Why would the season be ending so early? Is the program saying goodbye?
Not only was the season ending, but the program was also ending along with it. No formal statement. No clarification. It left many wondering why and what happened, and it’s a question that the program’s leader still doesn’t have an answer to.
“As we’re speaking right now, I still don’t know the answer to who what, where, and why,” said Lalita Jenkins, CEO of Texas A&T, the independent entity that operated SUSLA’s football program. “Because no one wants to talk to us. No one.”
Jenkins says that back in January, she got word of a document online stating that at the next Southern University Board of Supervisors meeting, the board would be voting on dissolving the memorandum of understanding (or MoU) between Southern University-Shreveport and Texas A&T, effectively ending the program.
During that January 9 board meeting, the topic of SUSLA and Texas A&T sparked quite a debate among the board members. The closest thing to an explanation given on why SUSLA wanted to sever ties with Texas A&T?
“The reality is…it just wasn’t a good business deal,” Sam Gilliam told the rest of the board. “They (Texas A&T) had promised us in the MoU that they would give us $82,000 to support the program. We haven’t seen those funds.”
According to Lalita Jenkins, $82,000 was not only never agreed upon, but it’s also completely made up.
“I was shocked,” said Jenkins. “Because he (Sam Gilliam) had never been a part of our meetings, I’m not quite sure where that person got that number from.”
On February 18, Jenkins was accompanied by players Alan White, Jamel Powell, Thomas Brown, and others associated with the program to plead their case to the Southern University Board of Supervisors. Before the meeting, Jenkins tried to address Interim Chancellor Vladimir Appeaning.
“He deferred us to council. To this day, we have still never spoken to him, he has never presented us a reason why he wanted to dissolve the MoU.”
“Unfortunately, we haven’t been contacted by anyone from SUSLA or the administration regarding the matter,” Jenkins said before the board. “In the MoU, it states that if either party is no longer interested, both are required to have a discussion to resolve the matter.”
“I just feel like, if (players) get a chance in Shreveport, they can make it better for themselves,” said Thomas Brown, a former SUSLA offensive lineman who signed with Texas Southern to continue his football career. “They can get their second chance because people overlooked them.”
Later in the meeting, board member Raymond Fondel addressed the rest of the board before the motion to dissolve the MoU was passed.
“To come here and sit with this body and have this thing rushed through like this, like we’re not gonna take it into consideration, and you have to tell these young men that you don’t want to face them to vote on this…and do this quick, we can’t. So all I have to say is, it’s wrong. So I’m going to stand with those young men. Because if I don’t, who will?”
When asked for comment, SUSLA responded with the following statement.
Southern University at Shreveport, through the Southern University Board of Supervisors at the February 2022 Board meeting, has dissolved the previous memorandum of understanding with Texas A&T, operating as Southern Shreveport Jags. As such, there is no formal relationship between SUSLA & Southern Shreveport Jags. Any questions or concerns relative to the football program known as Southern Shreveport Jags should be directed to Texas A&T.Statement sent to KTAL NBC 6 from SUSLA on dissolution of SUSLA Jags Football.
“Contracts were signed and promises were made,” Jenkins said. “And we’ve always kept our word.”
Despite the fact the agreement was dissolved, SUSLA Football continued on a club football schedule for the 2022 season. There were many challenges to moving forward without the support of the university.
“The cheerleaders were told they couldn’t cheer on the sidelines anymore,” said head coach DeCarlos Holmes. “These kids weren’t getting proper academic advisement. It was tough to keep morale up.”
The program started with plenty of fanfare back in 2020. After the Jags’ last game in October, it ended with players turning in their equipment and many of them going their separate ways for good.
“It was hard to focus on helping these kids during this time,” Jenkins said. “But we placed almost every kid who wanted to continue to play football at other schools. I’m proud of that.”
With almost 60 players on the 2022 roster, Jenkins says that over 50 kids have been placed at other schools to continue their football careers.