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Spears’ future at Alcorn uncertain

It’s often difficult to evaluate a head coach’s first year with a team, when players are adjusting to his coaching philosophy and offensive and defensive schemes.

So I was perfectly willing to give Alcorn State head football coach Melvin Spears a mulligan for the Braves’ disappointing 2011 season.

On the field, the results are easily forgettable — and Alcornites probably want to forget them. The Braves finished 2-8 overall, 1-8 in SWAC play, capped off by a 51-7 blowout loss to rival Jackson State Nov. 19 in the Capital City Classic.

Still, it usually takes a coach at least one year for himself, the assistant coaches and the players to feel each other out. Players are used to how the previous regime did things, and the first year is often times when the staff finds out which players are willing and able to adjust, and which are better off someplace else.

But after just one year on the job, Spears was recently placed on administrative leave with pay by the university, and a final decision on whether or not to retain him will be coming after the holidays.

Alcorn President M. Christopher Brown had already promised staff and budget cuts would be coming to athletic programs due to a loss in revenue. When the Braves had just 500 fans show up for their final home game this season against Prairie View A&M, the writing appeared to be on the wall for the football program.

But there appears to be more to Spears’ placement on administrative leave than just a lack of wins. Chris Perkins Sr., whose son Chris Perkins Jr. was receiver for the Braves, allegedly had a verbal altercation with Spears earlier in the season. Perkins Jr. had his scholarship reduced from 100 percent to 50 percent, and Perkins Sr. was on campus pleading his case to have his son’s scholarship restored to the full amount.

Perkins Sr. was successful in arguing his case, but afterward he allegedly encountered Spears in a parking lot on campus, and supposedly had Spears verbally deride him and his son and threaten Perkins Sr. According to Perkins Sr., Spears also had to be kept at bay by his assistant coaches as Spears allegedly tried to charge at Perkins Sr.

Perkins Sr.’s account of the alleged incident involves numerous shouts of profanity. Spears denied Perkins Sr.’s accusations in an interview with The Clarion Ledger.

Since I wasn’t present when this alleged incident took place, I’m not going to accuse Spears of anything. He’s still innocent until proven guilty. Perkins Sr. is a pastor, and if he’s lying about this, it speaks very poorly on Perkins Sr.’s character.

But if Perkins Sr. is not lying, then there’s no justifiable reason to keep Spears beyond this past season. That’s no way for the head coach of a Division I football team to conduct himself.

If Spears is let go, that will be four coaches for the Braves in the last five years. It will be imperative for the Alcorn administration to get the next hire right should they decide to pull the plug on Spears. The Braves have been wandering in the desert for far too long.

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