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GSU's Former Gym may Transform into Museum

March 2, 2007

GRAMBLING — Grambling State University will allow the former women's basketball gym on campus to be used for a proposed Eddie Robinson Museum.

The decision — pending approval from GSU's oversight board, the University of Louisiana System — was confirmed by school president Horace Judson during a Thursday meeting of the museum's board.

"My position is that we should get going as soon as possible," Judson said. "There's still more to do with the financial process. But the questions we've had have been answered."

Specifically, the university needs details on maintenance, parking and security for the facility, which sits adjacent to the GSU administration building on campus. Air conditioning must also be installed in the building, at a cost that has been estimated at $700,000. Representatives from the ULS and Secretary of State's office were on hand to pledge support for the plan, which now must get through the funding process in Baton Rouge.

Lewis Morris, the Secretary of State's museum program coordinator, said he would file the necessary paperwork in hopes of receiving $1.6 million in government start-up money. These funds would be earmarked for planning and architectural improvements to the gymnasium.

"Today is a big day in our efforts to bring this to reality," said John Belton, the only governor-appointed commission member to remain since the museum idea was approved by the Louisiana Legislature in 1999. "It's the biggest meeting we've ever had."

The group has been emboldened by the deteriorating health of Robinson, now 88 and suffering with Alzheimer's-like symptoms — ailments brought on, family members believe, by a stroke.

"Time is short," said former longtime GSU baseball coach Wilbert Ellis, who heads up the project's local fundraising. "We are trying to get this done while Coach is still living." When the meeting was adjourned, a jubilant Ellis stood and applauded. Morris said he would work with Judson to complete a cooperative agreement to be presented at the April meeting of the ULS. That proposal would outline the shared responsibilities associated with the women's gym. Robbie Robinson, director of internal audits for the ULS, said system president Sally Clausen has taken a special interest in the project — and saw no unforeseen stumbling blocks for approval of that agreement.

"Dr. Clausen is very interested in this," Robinson said, "and wants to see it get moving."

The proposed site
Eddie Robinson made his legend nationally as Grambling State's football coach, winning a Division I record 408 games. But he also coached basketball inside the former Women's Basketball Gym in the early 1950s, leading conference championship teams that included future Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Bob Hopkins.

GSU president Horace Judson on Thursday told the Eddie Robinson Museum Commission that the gymnasium could be used to house the long-delayed project.

 

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The Eddie G. Robinson Museum is a landmark that officially recognizes the outstanding contributions to the state of Louisiana, the nation, the world and the game of football made by Coach Eddie G. Robinson.  - more