Thomas deserves more time

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 14, 1999

When Jack Spinks Stadium was built in 1992, there’s no doubt Alcorn State officials had dreams of 20,000-plus crowds invading Lorman for several Saturdays in the fall.

Then with the expansion of seven-mile wide Hwy. 552 from two to four lanes, traffic problems that were so common during Steve McNair days would be alleviated.

There’s one problem. Steve McNair has been gone for five years now. And so has a competitive Alcorn football program.

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Everyone knew about the McNair mystique.

A record crowd of 26,500 watched the greatest player to don an Alcorn uniform break the record for total offense in Division I-AA in a wild 41-37 win over Southern.

Remember the days.

During McNair’s four years, Alcorn was 15-1 at home, winning its first 13 games in the new stadium as McNair displayed his magic.

But since his departure, Alcorn is 8-10 in Jack Spinks Stadium, and even worse away from Lorman.

Cardell Jones was given his walking papers after not being able to have a winning season after McNair left, going 4-7 for three straight years before current head coach Johnny Thomas came on the scene in 1998.

Thomas impressed quite a lot of folks, but was not the sentimental favorite as defensive coordinator Mario Kirksey had the players’ vote.

But Thomas was the pick and Kirksey moved on into administration work.

Thomas had to clean house a bit and experienced a 5-6 season last year.

With a young defense returning, Thomas knew the Braves would take their lumps early.

But he never expected to lose to Mississippi Valley last week and certainly wasn’t happy with Alcorn’s 35-26 loss to Alabama A&M Saturday to drop the Braves to 3-6 overall.

With Jackson State remaining, the Braves will probably finish 3-7.

The catcalls were out Saturday and if the Braves do not have a good showing next Saturday, the rumblings will grow louder.

A crowd (?) of 1,342 showed up for Saturday’s game. Most of them did not leave happy with what they observed.

That surely doesn’t sit well with Alcorn officials.

But in Thomas’ defense, the Braves are still young, even if at times they looked too much out of sync Saturday.

&uot;I know it seems at times that you want to ask, ‘Have we practiced,’&uot; Thomas said after Saturday’s game. &uot;But I know it’s going to get better. We’re going to continue encouraging the players and working hard.&uot;

Alcorn fans do need to be patient with Thomas. He is a good recruiter and he should be judged on what his players do. You will see a number of them playing next year.

And you have to love Thomas’ optimism.

&uot;Losing hurts me, but it doesn’t destroy me,&uot; he said. &uot;I won’t let it. &uot;I’m going to stay positive. Sometimes adversity can bring out the best in you. We’re looking for leadership now.&uot;

Thomas kept using the word up-coach to describe how his staff has to work even harder to keep a positive spin on everything.

&uot;There’s a lot of pressure on these players and it’s frustrating at times,&uot;&160;Thomas said. &uot;We’re inexperienced, but we’re still learning. And we’re going to get to where we need to be.&uot;

You can bet that day can’t get here soon enough for officials looking out at a vacant stadium Saturday.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Democrat. He can be reached by calling 446-5172 ext. 232 or at