Alcorn keeping Thomas, firing 2 assistants

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Alcorn State will retain Johnny Thomas as head football coach, but offensive coordinator Riley Murry Jr. and defensive coordinator Tyrone Jones will be fired, the university announced Wednesday morning.

The Braves finished the season 0-11, the school’s first winless season in 42 years.

The decision came after school president Clinton Bristow met with interim athletic director Marino Casem, Thomas and athletic booster club members and officials on Friday and Saturday.

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“After a thorough evaluation of the football program … Bristow, acting on the recommendation of staff, has decided to retain Johnny Thomas … and replace the offensive and defensive coordinators,” a news release from the university said. “This decision was based on the need to immediately improve the effectiveness of the football program.”

Alcorn managed just 220 yards total offense per game under Murry, a Louisville native who played at Mississippi Valley State. The defense gave up 382 yards per contest under Jones, who also played at Valley. Jones is from Heidelberg, Thomas’ hometown.

The decision to keep Thomas won’t come as a surprise to most boosters.

“My gut feeling is, he’s not going anywhere,” Scott County A-Club president Bo Clark said on Monday.

Clark was at the meeting Friday in Lorman, where the national alumni board was present. Thomas told them that his team is young and he has plenty of players returning, Clark said.

“He said they’d get better,” Clark said, adding with a laugh, “they can’t go anywhere but up.”

Charles McClelland, an active booster in Jackson, said that keeping Thomas is “affecting the university beyond athletics.”

“It’s going to be hard for the university to get support now,” he added.

Clark said that many of his booster club members are withholding their $30 dues, waiting on Bristow’s decision.

“A lot of them said that they aren’t going to buy season tickets or contribute in any way … ,” he said.

“For 35 years, I drove a bus there, full of kids who wanted to go to the games,” he said. “I had to turn some away. Now, I couldn’t fill a bus if I had to … I could put them in my car now.”

Casem coached “Rip Saw” Thomas when he was an NAIA all-America linebacker at Alcorn in 1976 and 1977. Thomas was an assistant coach at Arkansas-Pine-Bluff, Alabama State and Valley. He was at UAPB from 1987 to 1989, then left football to earn his doctorate in administration of higher education and sports management.

He was hired by Bristow in 1998 after a nine-year absence from the game. It was his first head-coaching job.