Fred McNair out as Alcorn State football coach; Cedric Thomas named new head coach

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Ernest Bowker

The Natchez Democrat

LORMAN — There’s a new football chief on The Reservation.

Email newsletter signup

Alcorn State University announced Tuesday that football head coach Fred McNair is leaving the program, and moved quickly to replace him by promoting defensive coordinator Cedric Thomas to head coach.

Over the past week, McNair has reportedly been in negotiations to become Texas Southern’s head coach. In announcing that McNair would not return for the 2024 season, Alcorn State interim director of intercollegiate athletics Robert Raines said the university and coach were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract.

“We worked diligently to extend Coach McNair a multi-year contract which would have placed him in the top tier of the conference with both compensation, incentives, and additional incentives for assistant coaches. Unfortunately, we could not reach a mutual agreement,” Raines said in a statement.

The promotion of Thomas was announced about an hour after the university issued its statement about McNair.

Thomas rejoined Alcorn’s staff in March 2022 following previous stints as the defensive backs coach from 2012-15, and as the defensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017.

In between his two stints as Alcorn’s defensive coordinator, Thomas spent two seasons as the head coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff; one as Southern Miss’ defensive backs coach; and another as the head coach at Mississippi Delta Community College.

“I am extremely humbled, thankful, and honored for this opportunity to lead the Alcorn State University Braves as the new head football coach,” Thomas said in a school release. “I want to continue to build on the foundation that was laid before me by so many legendary coaches, players, and staff. We will continue to make the University and alumni base proud of our championship culture.”

Thomas and McNair were both key parts of the revitalization of Alcorn’s football program over the past decade.

McNair was Alcorn’s head coach for seven seasons and coached the team to four Southwestern Athletic Conference East Division titles and a pair of SWAC Championships.

McNair has a 48-34 overall record, and is 38-17 against SWAC opponents. Last season, the Braves finished 7-4 overall and 6-2 in the SWAC. They tied for the division title but lost a tiebreaker to Prairie View A&M for the right to play in the SWAC championship game.

The Braves’ last conference championship was in 2019. After the COVID-19 pandemic led the SWAC to cancel the 2020 season, Alcorn did not compete in the SWAC’s rescheduled spring 2021 season. It has gone 18-15 in the three seasons since then.

McNair has deep ties to Alcorn State beyond his seven years as head coach. The older brother of Alcorn legend Steve Mcnair, Fred played wide receiver and quarterback for the Braves from 1986-89.

Fred McNair was inducted into the Alcorn State University “A” Club Sports Hall of Fame along with his brother in 2005. In 2012, he returned to Alcorn’s football program as the offensive coordinator for head coach Jay Hopson. When Hopson left in 2016 to become Southern Miss’ head coach, McNair was promoted to take his place.

“The Alcorn State University family deeply appreciates Coach McNair for his exceptional leadership to the University’s student-athletes and his commitment to excellence on the field, in the classroom, and community,” Alcorn State said in a statement. “The University is especially appreciative of his unique legacy as a player and a coach in elevating not only the football program but also the University. The University wishes Coach McNair well in his future endeavors.”