Grambling fires volleyball coach, upholds contentious cuts

Grambling State has fired first-year volleyball coach Chelsey Lucas amid an ongoing investigation into her pulling numerous scholarships from incumbent players, but has not moved to reinstate any players who’ve been cut since Lucas’ hiring last February.

Athletic director Trayvean Scott said the 12 scholarship players who were on the team at the time of Lucas’ firing would retain their current status at least through next season.

“The success of student-athletes and their ability to matriculate at Grambling State University is the top priority,” Scott said.

The NCAA allows a maximum of 12 scholarships for volleyball. No scholarships went to returning players for the coming academic year, athletics spokesman Brian Howard said.

The roster upheaval that ensued after Lucas’ hiring caused backlash from Grambling students, parents, alumni and others, more than 3,000 of whom have signed a petition protesting the coach’s handling of the program.

Grambling State President Rick Gallot hired an outside firm — Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP of New Orleans — to investigate the matter.

“It is the responsibility of this institution to make sure that student-athletes are afforded opportunities in a manner compliant with all regulatory organizations,” Gallot said. “That applies to athletics as much as it does to academics.”

The investigation is ongoing and the university said would withhold details on findings until it was complete.

Scott said a national search for a new volleyball coach will begin this week.

Grambling officials have so far been unable to specify how many former players have been retained as walk-ons. There is no volleyball roster posted on Grambling’s official athletics website and Howard said he couldn’t release that information at this time.

While Lucas declined previous requests for an interview with The Associated Press, she justified her decision to cut players in a statement released through Grambling that read: “While student-athletes are granted athletic scholarships, a scholarship is not guaranteed and not binding, per NCAA rules and regulations.”

Scott initially backed Lucas, saying that, “just as the transfer portal empowers student-athletes, our coaches are also empowered to make the decisions they deem necessary to advance their programs.”

Last season, Grambling volleyball went 11-17 overall, and 8-8 in Southwestern Athletic Conference matches under previous coach Demetria Keys-Johnson, who stepped down.

Lucas, hired on Feb. 14, is a 2007 Grambling graduate and former SWAC defensive player of the year and first-team all-conference player. She had coached the past three seasons at the University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff, where he teams went 37-44 overall and 27-17 in the SWAC play, including a 13-3 conference record in 2021.

Including non-scholarship “walk-ons,” Grambling’s 2021 roster had 18 players.

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