How Dan Reneau’s Son-in-Law Fixed The Grambling Football Mutiny

Here’s the story you will never see in North Louisiana’s Gannett newspapers, courtesy of The (Baton Rouge) Advocate. It details how former Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard (who also happens to be the son-in-law of former Louisiana Tech University President Dan Reneu) helped avert a mutiny by the Grambling State University (GSU) football team.

Bernhard reportedly has had yearnings to run for a statewide political office, and at one time was Chairman of the state’s Democrat State Central Committee.

Former Shaw CEO behind deal to get Grambling players back on the field

By MATTHEW HARRIS

After a boycott that produced a forfeit game, Grambling ended its protest Monday and returned to practice, a move made after a Sunday night meeting overseen by Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard, who promised to resolve health concerns with the team’s practice facility.

The stalemate was broken during a sitdown in Ruston with Bernhard, the founder of The Shaw Group Inc. The meeting was attended by five players and Grambling alumni and friends of the program Douglas Porter, Ezil Bibbs, Roy Jackson, Henry Dyer and Howard Davis.

For several hours, the players reiterated concerns with mold growing in the team’s showers and locker room, equipment issues, $11,000 worth of uninstalled replacement flooring for the weight room, long bus rides to games in Kansas City and Indianapolis and the September firing of coach Doug Williams.

“They stressed it was not just them but Grambling in general,” Bernhard said. “I told them, ‘Let’s go through the must-haves and the nice-to-haves.’ That’s been accomplished (Monday).”

Bernhard has no formal ties to Grambling but said his interest was piqued by seeing television reports on the dispute and the feeling that players and Grambling administrators were “talking past each other.” After returning from a trip to Virginia late Saturday night, he reached out to contacts to arrange a meeting with Grambling players.

“I just picked up my phone and said, ‘Get these guys in a room,’ ” Bernhard said.

USA Today reported former coach Doug Williams and several others met with the players Sunday night at a hotel room in Ruston.

In their statement, Grambling players said the former Tigers coach “put us in contact” with Bernhard, whose docket has been largely cleared after The Shaw Group was sold in July 2013 for a reported $3 billion. Yet Bernhard denied touching base with Williams about the matter.

“I never talked to Doug,” Bernhard said. “I never had any communication with him whatsoever. I know Doug Williams, and I’m sure like any coach he’s concerned about his players.”

Behind the scenes, however, a potential channel could have been used to exchange information.

A source familiar with the matter said Bernhard reached out to Cleo Fields, a former politician and Baton Rouge attorney, about what he could do to help broker a resolution. Fields represented Williams, and the source said the attorney contacted his client about what parties Bernhard needed to speak with in order to set up the meeting.

Bernhard and Fields have similar political leanings, and they’re also neighbors.

During his meeting with the players, Bernhard ensured facilities would be updated, while The (Monroe) News Star reported that Athletic Director Aaron James said $32,000 in renovations were in store for the weight room over the next couple weeks.

Bernhard said he spoke with Wayne Parker, who chairs the system’s Board of Supervisors, and received reassurances that issues within the facility were being addressed. As far as further improvements, Bernhard said he would take on a role in raising funds to put them in place.

“If there’s something down the road for those nice-to-haves, I think the funds can be raised,” Bernhard said. “There’s certainly Grambling alumni, and I’ll participate. We’re going to take care of the must haves in the next few days.”

13 Responses to “How Dan Reneau’s Son-in-Law Fixed The Grambling Football Mutiny”

  1. Cowboy Says:

    Yeah, this is a great story about political insiders arranging a fix, but the larger story here is the fact that Grambling administrators looted the school to the point where the football players had to strike to force the school to spend money fixing basic problems with their facilities! What happened to all the money provided to run the school? Why are the facilities so dilapidated as to pose health and safety concerns? Is Mr. Bernhard going to address the issue of these missing funds, or is he just covering up a Democrat problem before it festers and breaks open to be exposed to the public? Is he just protecting the political interests of a major Democrat constituency to better position himself for a run for office as a Democrat? Probably!

    Given former Jonesboro mayor Leslie Thompson’s conviction for malfeasance and Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s spotlight on Gibsland’s financial troubles, black Democrats are looking like a bunch of thieves that can’t be trusted. Trouble with Grambling’s finances would only serve to reinforce this perception. Louisiana Democrats are so few they deserve listing as an endangered species, so they can’t afford any more scandals involving theft of public funds.

    The Grambling football team had to walk off and refuse to play to get the spotlight turned onto the unsafe and unsanitary condition of their facilities, and all anyone seems to care about is that they forfeited a game. With Leslie Thompson in jail and Gibsland Mayor Odell Key’s investigation well under way, perhaps Mr. Purpera should turn his attention to Grambling’s finances. If he ever does, that’s sure to rock some mighty powerful boats in both the black and white worlds!

  2. Rick Godley Says:

    I too was wondering how old are these facilities? And how did they get into such a state of disrepair? And If and I mean if, there is such a mis appropriation of money, where’s it going and whose getting it? We should see the manifestation of the money in for the form of material things….nice cars, nicer homes etc?
    This is more than a Grambling problem, its a Louisiana problem.

    • Cowboy Says:

      A sound administrative plan for any institution requires regular facilities upkeep to avoid having them fall into expensive disrepair. Failure to keep up Grambling’s facilities IS malfeasance and IS misappropriation on the part of the administrators! There is no excuse either that justifies this malfeasance and misappropriation of funds! This is true of any administrator or elected official. In the private business world, if funds are lacking to properly support the business, employees are laid off and the business footprint is shrunk to adjust to the smaller profit picture, but the business facilities are not allowed to fall into disrepair as this will require unnecessary spending at a higher level in the future.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    GREED is not a Louisiana problem….Power (real or not) makes folks moral compass go haywire.

    Elected officials without much sense think they are untouchable.

    The servant heart has all but disappeared.

    Glad the rich white man stepped up to help this situation along.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Black leaders are needed now more than ever. This is a good place to find a fix. We have been breeding Thompsons and Mayos to scream discrimination to hid their incompetence. A change is deserved at Grambling. Hats off to the football team for bringing these problems to the light.

  5. Larry Says:

    Money can only go so far, it can only cover criminal activity for so long and those that abuse their elected position can only operate in the realm of crime and abuse for a finite time. Look around and see how many have fallen in the last 6 months and look ahead to who is about to have their day in court from the Federal Docket to the local docket……how sad that man thinks his money can buy silence….how sad to sell your soul for a dollar.

  6. How Dan Reneau’s Son-in-Law Fixed The Grambling Football Mutiny Says:

    […] How Dan Reneau’s Son-in-Law Fixed The Grambling Football Mutiny – Lincoln Parish News Online […]

  7. hmmmmm Says:

    I wouldn’t want my son playing football amidst a bunch of mold and stuff. That really is a serious health issue and I am surprised DHHS hasn’t gone out there and gotten involved.

    • Anonymous Says:

      DHH did go out and perform an inspection. After GSU came in and cleaned up all the mold.

  8. The Jet Says:

    Heard an interesting story one time about the circumstances behind the 2007 Governor’s race. Coming into that year, Blanco, despite an approval rating in the mid-20s, despite the fallout from Katrina and the toll it had taken on her politically and personally, despite the knowledge that Jindal was fully re-locked and reloaded for a rematch and that the entire state and national GOP from the White House down was aiming right for her head, despite the evisceration of the New Orleans black voting bloc which is so absolutely critical to the Democratic Party in Louisiana by aforementioned hurricane, and despite half her party loyalists and inner circle deserting and turning on her after Katrina, despite all that, in January of that year she had every intention of running for re-election and running hard, undeterred by all of the above.

    The only thing that turned her away, and caused her to finally quit the field and decline to run for re-election, was, allegedly according to the “inside knowledge” around the Capitol at the time, was a meeting that took place sometime in late January/early February 2007 between her and an emissary from the Shaw Group, informing Governor Blanco that Jim Bernhard was withdrawing his financial and political support from her, and pretty much taking every other financial heavy hitter person/group of the Louisiana Democratic Party with him. That did it. Without Bernhard’s support, she was a dead duck, and she knew it. Bernhard pretty much stayed on the sidelines that election; no other powerful Democrat entered the race and Jindal cakewalked in (too be honest, I’m not sure Huey Long resurrected from the grave could’ve won that election, it was so stacked against the Democrats). Allegedly, he ain’t that big a fan of Jindal, but Shaw keeps getting the big contracts, so they must have some sort of “understanding.” Or so I’ve been told.

  9. Ed Webb Says:

    Here on earth, money buys all. But what about after life? Money means nothing in heaven or hell.

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