Alcorn alumni want coach Thomas gone

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 11, 2001

After a dismal 0-11 season, Alcorn State football coach Johnny Thomas undoubtedly hoped to escape public criticism and scorn during the relative anonymity of the off-season.

No such luck.

The Alcorn State University National Alumni Executive Committee

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has begun circulating a notice to all ASU alumni asking for their help in replacing Thomas as head coach. The &uot;five point strategy&uot; listed in the notice includes a rally on the campus next month and withholding alumni funds from the school until Thomas is replaced.

&uot;We think Thomas is wrong for the job,&uot; said Larry Hubbard, the committee’s director of communications. &uot;We love him – he’s an Alcornite – but we think he’s the wrong person to produce a winning solution.&uot;

&uot;I’m displeased by last season,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;As an Alcornite, I should be. I don’t think there’s anybody in America who’s less pleased than I am.&uot;

The Braves have gone 8-24 in Thomas’ three-year tenure, losing more games in each consecutive season before last year’s winless effort – the first 0-11 season in 42 years.

The university announced Dec. 20 that Alcorn’s offensive and defensive coordinators would be replaced, but Thomas was left in place as head coach.

&uot;Thomas doesn’t have to be fired from the university. We have understanding and compassion,&uot; Hubbard said. &uot;But we want to get Thomas out and get in someone who can produce winning results.&uot;

The university, though, is more focused on academic results, said director of public relations Ralph Payne. Grade and graduation rates among players have been up since Thomas took over as head coach.

&uot;A decision has been made and we’re going to stand by it,&uot; Payne said. &uot;Now it’s time to move forward.&uot;

&uot;I understand the alumni’s position, but the decision has been made,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;Only winning can earn back the alumni’s respect, and I’m committed to doing that.&uot;

To pressure school president Clinton Bristow into re-thinking his decision about Thomas, the committee will first meet with the college board of directors Jan. 18 to present its argument.

The committee is then urging all alumni to participate in a protest on campus on Feb. 3 – the same day the Alcorn basketball team hosts rival Jackson State.

The committee will withhold the customary invitation extended to the school president to speak at the Mid-Winter Conference, but perhaps more damaging, the committee will withhold any funds raised at the committee until the issue with Thomas is resolved.

Past conventions have raised over $100,000, Hubbard said.

&uot;It comes down to tradition,&uot; Hubbard said. &uot;We’ve had seasons that were not so good, but never like these last three.&uot;

The committee has begun contacting the roughly 1,500 alumni listed in its online data base. Copies of the notice have also been sent to all alumni chapter heads, to be distributed to all chapters in the next few weeks, Hubbard said.

ASU alumnus and Natchez resident Michael Winn has not yet seen the committee’s letter, but he’s not ready to jump on the anti-Thomas bandwagon just yet, he said.

&uot;I follow Alcorn football quite a bit, but I don’t have all the information the president had when he made his decision,&uot; Winn said. &uot;Alcorn is a great a institution, but even great institutions have dark chapters in their history

&uot;This is a dark chapter,&uot; he said. &uot;I hope things change soon.&uot;

Bristow could not be reached for comment.