“The decision was made due to the determination of an internal investigation within the volleyball program,” the school said in a statement.
Grambling State’s women’s volleyball team went 11-17 last season under former coach Demetria Keys-Johnson, who resigned in December to take another job at the university. Lucas was then hired Feb. 14 after going 37-44 in three seasons at Arkansas Pine Bluff, including an 18-15 record last year.
Lucas’ relationship with Grambling State players was strained from the start, according to multiple reports, which cite players who speculated Lucas remained bitter over an incident last season when Arkansas Pine Bluff played Grambling State.
“When we played them at home and beat them, our school has like that chant, but at the end of the chant, you say, like, the B-word,” Sheila Borders told Andscape. “I guess she thought I called them B-words, but, like, the whole school says it. They say it at basketball games and football games. It’s nothing personal.”
During his first meeting with the Grambling State players, Lucas reportedly said, “I bet you didn’t expect to see me again. I bet you’ll think twice who you call a b—-. In the weeks following his appointment, Lucas held three workouts, “most of which consisted of very little volleyball-related drills and a lot of punishment-related runs,” according to the Monroe News-Star.
Some of Borders’ former teammates attempted to move past the chilling reception and develop a relationship with Lucas. Borders’ mother turned to the transfer portal, seeking to verify rumors that former Lucas Pine Bluff players from Arkansas were planning to transfer to Grambling State.
“The girls know the girls from UAPB. They’re in the same circle of the sport,” Tasha Bryce, Borders’ mother, told The News-Star. “So we told them [by the UAPB players] that they were going to enter the transfer portal and then they were going to come. I’m not going to lie, I checked the facts. . . . Sure enough, they were all there.
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On April 4, Lucas reportedly called individual meetings during which she informed the 12 scholarship recipients that she would not be renewing their scholarships for the upcoming season. Seven extras were informed that their places would not be renewed. Lucas reportedly offered four former Fellows the chance to stay on the team as extras, but all four declined.
The Grambling State administration publicly supported the decision, with athletic director Trayvean Scott issuing a statement at the time which read, “Just as the transfer portal empowers student-athletes, our coaches are also empowered to make the decisions that they deem necessary to advance their agendas. ”
The decision left Grambling State players scrambling to find new programs at the end of the offseason, with some undergrading a few credits.
“[Lucas] said we weren’t able to practice much, which we weren’t, and she said based on that, she wasn’t able to renew my scholarship, so I didn’t didn’t really have time to show what I could do,” Maurisa Harris, Jr., told KSLA News 12. “When I was there and she told me, my heart went completely broken. … I didn’t cry in it, but I did when I left, and it really hurts, that it was ripped off so quickly.
In the aftermath of those April meetings, players who had been removed from the program started a Change.org petition claiming Lucas’ work and asking the school to reinstate player scholarships, which garnered more than 3,700 signatures. . In early May, Grambling State said it had hired an outside firm to begin its investigation into allegations involving Lucas and the program. That same month, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith amplified the situation during a segment on “First Take.”
Lucas, who didn’t comment publicly on the matter until after she was fired, told KSLA she was ordered not to speak to the media about the situation. In an interview with 247 Sports, she disputed the details surrounding the allegations made against her.
She said the school administration not only knew about her decisions on the roster, but Scott, the athletic director, suggested she “get rid of them all.” Lucas claimed she only met 14 players on April 4 and some were offered the option to stay.
“There were girls who … I gave them reasons why you wouldn’t be in the program at Grambling State University anymore, and there were young women, there were student-athletes, who I asked , which I asked, ‘I want you to be part of this program,’ she said.
“The story of this team, even when I arrived, of the administration, [was] that it was a bad character team. That’s what I was getting, but at the same time I wanted my administration to give me a fair chance to make sure that I come in and can be the coach for them and assess and assess these young women on and off the field.
Scott declined to comment through a university spokesperson. In its statement, the school called student-athletes a priority, but said “any additional comments will be withheld pending the conclusion of the investigation.”
“As we move through this transition and begin a national search for the next coach, all volleyball student-athletes who received scholarships for the 2022-23 academic year will retain their scholarships and remain on the team,” said Scott in the release. “Walk-ons will also continue to hold their place on the list.”