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Fans ready for ASU homecoming

NATCHEZ — Royal Hill II has been attending Alcorn State football games quite often since he graduated from the school in 1983.

The Natchez resident has seen the good times, when the Braves were competing for SWAC championships and Steve McNair was bringing lots of positive attention to the school.

He’s also seen the rough patch the Braves have been through in recent years, and he said he’s hopeful things would finally start to turn around.

When Hill attends homecoming at Alcorn Saturday against Alabama State, Hill said he’s looking for one thing: competitiveness.

“That’s the Alcorn spirit,” Hill explained.

“With the Alcorn family, competitiveness sells tickets. If you can be competitive and put a product on the field where we’ll compete, we’ll show up.”

At the same time, Hill said he understands the Braves’ coaching staff is undergoing a lengthy process to get the Braves back to winning seasons. So far, Hill said he’s liked what he’s seen, especially in the Braves’ season-opening win against Grambling State.

“The team is persistent, disciplined and organized,” Hill said. “It’s been a total reversal from pervious years.”

Natchez resident and Alcorn alumnus Alfred Banks also said he’ll be attending homecoming Saturday. Like Hill, Banks said he’s excited with the direction of the program under head coach Jay Hopson.

“I’m in full support of the new coach,” Banks said. “I’d like to see him there for three years or (more).”

Banks also said Hopson being the first white head coach in the SWAC has little to do with how Alcornites perceive him.

“We want to win, and I don’t believe race or gender has anything to do with it,” Banks said.

Banks said he went to Meet the Braves this past summer at Alcorn’s Natchez campus, and he said he came away very impressed with Hopson.

“He knows a lot of people, and the people I’ve talked to around town are all in favor of him,” Banks said. “I’ll support the Braves and Jay Hopson as long as he’s there.”

Natchez resident Pattie Woods, an Alcorn alumna, said she will try to at least make the homecoming parade, though her son’s game with the Natchz Falcons youth football team in Jackson may prevent her from making homecoming.

“It’s a ritual for us,” Woods said. “Every year we try to go (to homecoming), so I’m going to try and squeeze in both.”

And Woods said it’s important for fans to show up and support the Braves, whether it’s homecoming or not.

“Fan support is everything,” she said. “Without the fans, they have no program.”

Banks also said it was important for Alcornites to make it to home games, even if the team is struggling early on in Hopson’s tenure.

“Jay Hopson brought this up, but we really need people coming to the games,” Banks said. “The stands should be filled. You’d be surprised what it does to a (potential recruit) when they see the stands jam packed.”

Hill said he doesn’t anticipate fan support being a problem this week.

“Homecoming at an HBCU — or any university in the South — is a pretty big deal,” Hill said. “You pretty much have a consistent group of friends, family and neighbors to interact with. It’s a special time for the university.”

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. Saturday at Alcorn.