Alcorn State fires head coach Jones

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 12, 2008

LORMAN — Ernest Jones confirmed early Thursday afternoon that he has been fired as head coach of Alcorn State University’s football team.

Jones said Alcorn State’s attorneys notified his attorneys of his release.

He has not been personally notified by anyone at the university, he said.

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“I plan to be the head football coach at Alcorn State University, and I want to be the head football coach at Alcorn State University,” Jones said after learning of the letter. “I just…I can’t even get my thoughts together right now.”

Attorney Ricky Left, of Columbia, S.C., said a letter detailing the firing was sent to Jones’ other attorney, Wayne Ferrell, of Jackson, on Wednesday. Left said the termination was for cause but would not go into specifics of the charges.

“They’re all baseless and, to some extent, manufactured by the athletic director,” Left said. “They’re just completely ridiculous. The ineptitude and the level of incompetence the last couple weeks is unbelievable.”

Jones had filed a lawsuit Dec. 5 against Alcorn President George Ross and Athletic Director Darren Hamilton. The suit alleged the university had committed a breach of contract in firing seven of his assistant football coaches without his consent.

Left, of Columbia, S.C., said the lawsuit asked the court to reinstate the coaches to their positions at Alcorn because firing them interfered with Jones’ ability to perform his duties as a head coach.

“He was not informed of the administration’s intentions,” Left said. “It was done at a critical time in the year when the coaches are out recruiting.”

He said the lawsuit also alleged that the university had not created an environment conducive to Jones’ and the football team’s success.

“You have to be in support of the program in every way, from funding to staffing, to ensure the coach has what he needs to perform,” Left said.

Letters were put in the assistant coaches’ boxes Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, after the coaches had gone home, Ferrell said.

Those seven coaches were reinstated by Ross Monday in a meeting Jones and Hamilton did not attend.

Repeated phone calls to Ross since the initial firings have not been returned.

Hamilton refused to comment Thursday.

Jones alleged he had not been told the coaches, whom he hired nearly four months before Hamilton was named athletic director, would be released. Instead, he saw the news while watching television at his house on Thanksgiving.

Hamilton said after the firings that he had simply chosen not to renew their contracts and was not required to give an explanation.

The assistant coaches fired and rehired are associate head coach and defensive coordinator Earnest Collins, offensive coordinator Dino Dawson, running backs coach Terrance Robinson, linebackers coach Zach Shay, secondary coach Jack Phillips, strength and conditioning coach Lorenzo Guess and defensive line coach Keith Majors.

Alcorn went 2-10 this season but lost six games by a touchdown or less and four games in the final minute in Jones’ first year as head coach.

Hamilton has said he made the decision not to renew the assistant coaches’ contracts following the Braves’ 26-21 loss to Jackson State in the Capital City Classic Nov. 22.

“Obviously this has been speculated as to what the university’s intentions were all along,” Left said. “I don’t know that this is a shock because of the manner in which the university has behaved.”

Hamilton’s management style has been criticized in the past. He was fired in March 2007 after seven months as athletic director at Eastern Washington University, amid complaints of his management and two allegations of sexual harassment.

An investigation by the university later found those charges to be unsubstantiated. The Easterner, the campus newspaper at Eastern Washington, reported the summary of the findings: “It is more likely than not something may have happened. Whatever happened did not rise to the level of sexual harassment…”