GRAMBLING, La. (AP) — New Grambling volleyball coach Chelsea Lucas has cut more than half of the team’s scholarship players and told incoming recruits that the previous coach’s commitments would not be honored.
The move has drawn criticism from spurned student-athletes and their families, but has been defended by athletic director Trayvean Scott, who also sought to refute reports that Lucas had cut the entire team.
“In fact, she attempted to keep four or five” players, Scott said in an interview with KSLA-TV in Shreveport.
However, it’s not clear if any players from last season’s roster remain. Grambling officials have so far been unable to specify which players, if any, have been retained, and the volleyball roster page on Grambling’s official athletics website showed a “404” error message stating: “The page you are looking for no longer exists.”
NCAA regulations currently allow for up to 12 scholarships for women’s varsity volleyball.
Lucas did not immediately respond to a request for an interview The Associated Press made Friday morning with Grambling’s sports information department. But Lucas previously released a statement through Grambling in which she said, “I met with my team, each student-athlete, individually to discuss my plans moving forward with the Grambling State University volleyball program.
“My decision was to not to bring back some of the current student-athletes on the team,” she said. “While student-athletes are granted athletic scholarships, a scholarship is not guaranteed and not binding, per NCAA rules and regulations.”
Scott added 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.”
This past season, Grambling volleyball went 11-17 overall, and 8-8 in Southwestern Athletic Conference matches under previous coach Demetria Keys-Johnson, who stepped down after the season.
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.
Naturi Parker, who was among the players cut by Lucas, said in an interview with KSLA she now must decide whether to remain at Grambling or transfer.
“The fact that I wasn’t even able to show what I can do is heartbreaking,” Parker said. “As of right now, I’m just searching for another volleyball opportunity.”
Former player Maurisa Harris, a junior who also was cut, told KSLA: “I didn’t really get any time to show what I could do. … When (Lucas) told me, my heart completely broke, of course. … It just hurts really bad to think that it’s snatched away so fast.”