No money, mo’ problems: Alabama HBCU #EpicFail after firing Gwen Boyd

Gwendolyn Boyd (press photo)
Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd (press photo Alabama State University )

Unfortunately for Alabama State University, they are now caught in a series of missteps that have resulted in an #EpicFail. All of this can be traced back to the firing of former president Gwendolyn Boyd in December 2016.

In 2014, the ASU Board of Trustees selected Dr. Boyd as its first woman president. It was a milestone for ASU and for the proud and distinguished member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. As part of her contract, she had to live in the “President’s House” located on campus. At the time, Boyd was unmarried and the conservative board placed a stipulation on her lifestyle. A clause stated that “for so long as Dr. Boyd is President and a single person, she shall not be allowed to cohabitate in the President’s residence with any person with whom she has a romantic relation.”

The clause raised eyebrows over the scrutiny that was being placed on the new president, but Boyd pressed forward on her mission to turn the university around. At the beginning of her tenure, the school was facing the possibility of the loss of accreditation for a series of issues. In addition, the school continued to suffer a decline in enrollment. As president, Boyd brought with her top administrative skills and a keen mind, as well as a willingness to make tough choices. Her direct leadership style resulted in a negative dynamic with some members of the Board of Trustees. There were issues over budgeting, hiring, pay raises and fundraising expectations. The school also was scammed by a fake promoter for a Lil’ Wayne homecoming concert in November 2015. The school lost money and that year it was announced by then ASU President Gwendolyn Boyd that there would be no homecoming concert.

Turkey Day Classic (Photo Source: Facebook/Alabama State University)
Turkey Day Classic (Photo Source: Facebook/Alabama State University)

But things turned brighter for the ASU when Steve Harvey and his investment company, HarCal, saw an opportunity to help. Along with partner, Montgomery businessman Greg Calhoun, the company entered into a contract with ASU to sponsor, promote and organize the Turkey Day Classic football game and surrounding events during Homecoming week for 2016. By all accounts, it was a successful Homecoming event according to Calhoun. He stated recently to media outlet APR that ASU has collected more than $800,000 in revenue from ticket sales for the 2016 TDC and enjoyed “six days of high-level entertainment.”

During that time, the issues with the board of trustees reached a head and Boyd was first suspended and then fired on Dec. 16, 2016, in an 8-6 vote. The board issued a letter with 15-bullet points on why they made their decision. One of the points was an issue with the HarCal contract that has recently entered into a very public and somewhat heated discussion. Last week, the ASU Board of Trustees held a meeting and made shocking comments that were reported by multiple media outlets. The board alleges that HarCal had failed to pay the school, and then the members went into executive session to reportedly look at legal options against HarCal.

According to the APR, “In the original contract HarCal signed with ASU, the school was guaranteed a $170,000 in profits – a figure that was approximately equal to what ASU had made off the previous two TDC games. All money above was to be split with HarCal, 80-20, with HarCal, which was fronting 100 percent of the upfront costs, receiving the larger share.”

ASU released a statement that says in part “The University is owed, at a minimum, $170,000 which is the guarantee outlined in the contract. The Alabama State University administration has yet to obtain any financial statements, either audited or unofficial, from HarCal representatives, even though the contract states that they are to be made available by both parties. These financial statements from HarCal would reveal if the University is owed any money above the guarantee.”

Calhoun stated during the APR interview that statements were ready and he was at a board meeting to present figures in December 2016. The board did not meet with Calhoun because it was the day it made the decision to fire Boyd. The whole episode played out in a series of missteps by the ASU Board of Trustees that may have cost the school significant revenue. ASU had signed a contract with ESPN for coverage of the annual Magic City Classic basketball game between ASU and Alabama A&M University. HarCal offered the school a chance to sign an agreement with NBC Universal and HarCal that would also involve Steve Harvey and the possibility of filming episodes of the hit TV game show “Family Feud.” But in order to break the contract, ASU would have to pay $20K to ESPN; the school declined and squandered a significant opportunity. Calhoun has stated that neither HarCal or Steve Harvey owe the school any money. In addition to these missteps, the school has compounded the issue in a public spat with Steve Harvey, one of the most powerful celebrities in entertainment.

But that is not the end of the problems at Alabama State University. Since firing Boyd, ASU has been without a president. Operations at the school are being handled by the school’s provost, Dr. Leon Wilson, and for the next 1-2 years, it will remain this way. The reason is because the school announced it has no money to conduct a full and customary search for a college president. Members of the ASU Board of Trustees met last week to formally disband the presidential search committee.

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.

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