Voice of reason: Grant brings SLC back from near collapse, looking to future

Published 8:59 am Friday, July 22, 2022

By Jim Gazzolo

American Press

It didn’t take long for Chris Grant to find out that when he speaks people are listening.

The first-year commissioner of the Southland Conference came to Media Day in Lake Charles Wednesday to give a state of the league address of sorts.

After a wild 18 months of highs and lows that saw the Southland on life support more than a few times, Grant stated the patient is making a fast and full recovery.

That, however, was far from the end of things.

Grant ignited an internet firestorm when he answered a seemingly simple question.

A few days earlier Deion Sanders, the flamboyant head coach of Jackson State, said it was time the Historically Black Colleges and Universities consider their futures and maybe even join in a super conference.

That was quickly shot down by others in the HBCU community. Grant was then asked if the suddenly growing Southland would consider adding HBCU programs in the future.

Grant, who is an African-American himself, said the previous commissioner, Tom Burnett, had talked of doing just that. He added that of course he would consider anything to improve his league, though he understood the politics of such a move.

“Tom talked about making the most diverse conference possible for all our schools and student/athletes,” Grant said. “It is not something you would consider lightly in today’s landscape. It is also nothing we are actively considering today, but we would look at all opportunities to continue to grow our program.”

The response on twitter was quick.

It is Grant’s job to consider all options and take all possible credible calls despite what social media folks think. But the response also shows that the often overlooked Southland Conference has people talking now. That alone is a pleasant change.

It all goes to show just what a rollercoaster ride this league has been on of late.

“It has been hectic times 10,” said Grant. “I can tell you this is a positive hectic.”

There were moments last fall when the Southland wasn’t talking of rebuilding but rather dissolving.

“There were some tough moments and some tough conversations,” said Grant. “We had a lot of heart to heart talks with our athletic directors and board. It wasn’t easy as we looked ourselves in the mirror.”

Yet Grant was able to keep the league alive and finally got Incarnate Word to stay and Lamar to return one year ahead of schedule. No longer are there worries about having a future, the league is now talking about what type of a future it wants.

“I’m not going to sit here and say we know exactly where we are going or what we are going to look like,” said Grant. “I do know we are committed to moving forward.

“There is no finish line. We have to keep moving. We can’t worry about what is going on around us. We are going to focus on what we can do.”

What Grant wants to do is keep adding programs, especially on the Division I level. In the past the SLC has been a place schools moving up from the Division II level could land. Getting D-I schools is the key to staying on the new path.

Grant has said he would like to increase the league, which is now at 10 full members and eight football-playing schools, to 12 and 10. New Orleans is in the process of looking into adding football in the near future.

Grant has said he would also consider listening to teams that recently left the SLC as well.

He just wants them to be programs that fit the league’s profile and footprint.

One thing is for sure, after his first day on the main stage Grant knows he has the rest of FCS football’s attention.

He can thank Twitter for that.