Just When You Thought the Saint Augustine's Board Couldn't Get Any Dumber, Claflin Announces $1.2 Million Partnership with Zoom, and the AUC Reveals Plans for Fall Re-Opening

Saint Augustine’s Fires Iconic Track Coach George Williams

Conventional wisdom suggests that leadership at Saint Augustine’s University would never be collectively stupid enough to unceremoniously fire George Williams, one of the country’s greatest living coaches of any sport and of any generation.

But now that the institution has defied convention, one of three reasons is probably the catalyst for his dismissal after 48 years at the helm of the program; Williams cost too much, talked too much, or knew too much.

The first theory is perhaps the most likely. Saint Augustine’s has struggled with debt and plummeting tuition revenues for the better part of the last four years before saving its accreditation in late 2018. Three presidents and several controversies later, SAU can’t be flushed with cash, even though leaders have added Williams to slashed faculty, staff and coaching rolls and have jettisoned valuable properties, including a historic golf course in 2016 and two months ago, an invaluable radio broadcasting license which officials sold for just $20.

That major league wheeling and dealing probably wasn’t enough to keep Williams, a 39-time NCAA track and field championship-winning coach and coach of the 2004 United States’ Olympic Track and Field team competitive as an international recruiter, trainer, or solicitor for sponsorship support from apparel makers. And at his age and with a lifetime bursting with professional success, he probably was not too shy about letting administrators or select members of the public know about his misgivings with leadership.

It is the third theory behind Williams’ untimely dismissal that bears the most consideration. With more than 50 years as a public mainstay on the private HBCU campus, Williams probably has enough relationship currency with influential alumni and select trustees to know secrets behind the work of the SAU board and all of its public proclamations and private intentions.

Let’s assume that Williams was fired for cause; that he needed to leave as a result of insubordination, criminal activity, human resources violation, or underperformance of his duties. Those would be grounds for immediate dismissal with some level of detail on how and why a legend was fired.

Outside of these things, you simply don’t fire legends; you laugh and cry when them as they lead you to your door while you shower them with praise and adoration.

The whispers had begun in Grambling around Eddie Robinson in the early-90’s. The Grambling State University Tigers were still competitive, producing a nine-win season in 1994. But just a year later the decline was too much to avoid, and then the next year was even worse.

Coach Rob’s final season in 1997, which everyone knew would be his last, ended with a second consecutive three-win season. Four of the losses were blowout defeats at the hands of Alcorn State University, Hampton University, Jackson State University, and the finale, a 30-7 defeat in the Bayou Classic to rival Southern University.

Everyone knew he no longer belonged on the sidelines. Everyone knew that even if his departure was of his own volition, it was at least strongly encouraged by GSU stakeholders who wanted continuity for the program, but most of all, preservation of Robinson’s legacy and dignity — even in defeat.

No matter how high maintenance George Williams may have become, how much he talked or how much he knows that may threaten the already crumbling tower of SAU leadership, the preservation of the man’s legacy at the institution and within the sector is more valuable than any level of intolerance for the man himself; at a minimum, it is worth more than a firing via press release.

It is higher education leadership 101 and at HBCUs, Upward Bound-level administrative know-how.

When leaders are too incompetent, self-absorbed, or too inexperienced to realize even the easiest parts of the inhumanely complex job of running a school the right way, mistakes and wrongdoing have a nasty habit of showing up at the wrong times and in the most public of ways.

For all that we don’t know about SAU’s controversial dormitory deal and resulting cover-up attempts, firings which have resulted in hefty settlement payouts to former employees, and the politics behind the board’s effort to be regarded as the worst collection of college trustees in America, Williams may very well know in detail. And given that his attorney spoke for him today in reaction to his firing, it’s likely that we’ll hear more from him along with furor from alumni and the Raleigh community in the days and weeks to come.

Heaven help SAU for what is to come.

Claflin, Zoom Announce Five-Year, $1.2 Million Partnership

Claflin University announced a partnership with Zoom this week that will bolster scholarship support for students, institutional technology and academic infrastructure and workforce development for graduates.

The five-year partnership, the first for Zoom with any college or university worldwide, will also grant Zoom leadership a seat on the university’s board of trustees, and allow the campus to serve as a pilot hub for product development across the web-based video conferencing platform.

“I am proud of this powerful new partnership between Zoom and Claflin University, and humbled to join the Claflin Board of Trustees,” said (Zoom COO Aparna) Bawa. “Zoom understands the historical, present, and future importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions across the US. We are committed to supporting these institutions via innovative partnerships that are relevant, holistic, and sustainable. Claflin University is the perfect place to begin. The University’s leadership has a broad and inspiring vision for how it should educate the leaders of tomorrow and is committed to embracing technology as a means to deliver and enhance education, and is dedicated to working with Zoom to help us build a service that addresses the needs of our diverse customer base.”

“This partnership strengthens Claflin University’s commitment to student success and our STEM agenda by providing scholarships, internships, and other career development initiatives,” said Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack, Claflin University’s ninth president. “Zoom’s innovative technology has revolutionized video communications in industries and organizations across the globe. We are extremely grateful that Zoom selected Claflin for its first-ever partnership with a college or university and we welcome Aparna Bawa, chief operation officer at Zoom, as the newest member of our Board of Trustees. We also express our highest appreciation to Congressman James Clyburn. His persistent support for Claflin and programs that enhance access to technology throughout South Carolina was critical in establishing this partnership.”

AUC Reveals Campus Re-Opening Plans

Members of the Atlanta University Center will require COVID-19 testing for students, restrictions on residency, and amended class scheduling and offerings as part of their individual and shared plans for reopening this fall.

In a joint statement, leaders from Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College said that the plans are an outline for creating the safest possible teaching and learning environment in a pandemic response period.

While we fully recognize and understand that no mitigation measure is guaranteed to eliminate all spread of the virus, we believe that the data-driven, thoughtful and measured approaches outlined in each institution’s plans mitigates risk to students, faculty, staff, and their families while maintaining the academic quality and traditions historically associated with the institutions. National or state developments in community spread of the virus may cause plans to be adjusted. All stakeholders will need to maintain awareness and flexibility, as well as take personal responsibility for adhering to AUC requirements and public health guidelines and for keeping the AUC community safe.

The institutional plans can be found here.