Alcorn State fans use signs to voice their frustration over losing football season

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 23, 2000

An Alcorn State University fan holds a protest sign while pointing to the field during Saturday’s football game. Posters were handed out to fans going into the stadium to protest the school’s president and head football coach. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

LORMAN About 1,000 signs featuring slogans like “Johnny be Gone” and “Bristow and J.T. get out of the TEE-PEE” were handed out at the beginning of Saturday’s game between Alcorn State University and Southern University to demonstrate the frustration of a losing season.

Alcorn lost to Southern, giving them an 0-8 record for the year.

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Statements by Alcorn Coach Johnny Thomas that he is having a good time despite his team’s 13-game losing streak have caused alumni to call for his removal as the university’s head football coach after three years.

“It’s just unfair to the kids to have this on their resume,” said Matt Thomas, former president of the national alumni association.

After Saturday’s 30-14 defeat to Southern, Johnny Thomas took a few minutes out of his post-game press conference to elaborate on his previous statements.

“I’m having the best time of my life because every morning I get up, I get up with a purpose. I have to get up thinking about how I’m going to deal with the media, how I’m going to deal with parents, how I’m going to deal with the alumni, what kind of strategies I’m going to use to keep my team motivated, my coaches motivated, how I’m going to keep myself motivated, and as I walk through this particular journey, it’s so special for me because it’s just like Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton, every day you wake up and it’s always something,” Johnny Thomas said.

He said his previous statements were misinterpreted by people, but despite the losing streak, being head coach at Alcorn is an enjoyable experience for him.

“If we were losing and didn’t have a future, it would be very, very frustrating. But we have a future here at Alcorn and it’s just a matter of time before we get everything in place,” Thomas said.

“And that’s what I meant when I said I’m having the best time of my life, which I am, because of all these things I have to deal with and to be able to come up with all these strategies and techniques and figure out what we need to do to get better, to get in the win column. And to me, that’s a journey everybody needs to experience before he or she leaves this earth, because it’s incredible.”

Matt Thomas said that five-year president of Alcorn State University, Clinton Bristow, who hired the coach, was another problem facing the first land-grant college for blacks in the state.

Bristow has come under fire from alumni before since assuming the school’s presidency for a lack of leadership. Alumni have also questioned the $70,000 reportedly spent on landscaping for the president’s home on campus.

Both Bristow and coach Johnny Thomas have said there is a plan in place to improve the grade point average and the graduation rate of athletes at Alcorn. Alumni complain that in the three years since Johnny Thomas took over the team, there are no numbers to indicate any improvement.

Charles McClelland, a former basketball player at Alcorn, said the administration has also excluded the alumni from helping develop a plan to improve sports at the school.

“We can’t see anything but going back,” McClelland said. “Hopefully the plan isn’t dropping the football program.”