Alcorn alumni ain’t laying down’

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 22, 2000

Plenty of Alcorn State supporters are angry that Johnny Thomas was retained as head football coach after finishing 0-11 last season.

They say their opinions were ignored by school administrators during the decision-making process. So they want to let them know just how they feel by staging a formal protest sometime this month or in early January.

“We’re going to do everything in a peaceful, timely manner,” said protest organizer Matt Thomas, who is treasurer of the National Alumni Board. “But we ain’t laying down.”

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Defensive coordinator Tyrone Jones and offensive coordinator Riley Murry Jr. were fired Wednesday, school president Clinton Bristow announced through a news release.

But Johnny Thomas, who is 8-24 in three seasons, survived the school’s first winless season in 42 years. He said he will hire replacements for his top assistants “as soon as possible.”

Asked if it was a relief to find out he will be retained, Thomas said, “I’m always positive. I stay positive.”

As for the fate of his assistants, he said, “That’s something we had to do for the good of the football program.”

About 120 alumni showed up at a special meeting Wednesday night in Jackson to decide how to voice their disapproval of the decision, Vicksburg A-Club president John Walls said.

Some suggested a subtle approach, by refusing to pay A-Club dues.

But Walls said they decided against that because they don’t want to hurt the university. The best way to get their point across, he said, is with a peaceful protest.

“There’s strength in numbers,” he said.

Matt Thomas said that he expects several busloads of supporters when they hold their demonstration at Lakeover Funeral Home in Jackson.

A date and time have yet to be determined.

About 60 Alcornites who wanted to get rid of Johnny Thomas called a talk radio show on WMPR Wednesday night. Only one call was in the coach’s favor, Walls said.

He said the ratio was even more one-sided when Bristow, interim athletic director Marino Casem and Johnny Thomas met with boosters in Lorman and Jackson over the weekend.

“There were about 120 there, and they were all against him,” Walls said.

“There wasn’t a person in there that said to keep him,” James Minor, president of Alcorn’s national alumni association, said of the meeting he attended.

That’s what has Matt Thomas upset. Supporters were asked to voice their opinions, but then were ignored, he said.

“They were sitting up there listening to us, knowing their decision was already made, then they hide behind a press release,” he said.

Bristow and Casem have not returned numerous messages left at their offices.

At midseason, Bristow said he supported Thomas because of his academic record and the graduation rate of his players.

“He could be in a classroom,” Walls said of the coach.

“We don’t have anything against that. I have a PhD too … it doesn’t mean that I know the X’s and O’s of football.”

Minor said the national board “continues to support Alcorn,” but “does not support Dr. Johnny Thomas.”

The board also calls for: “A new head football coach and a new direction for the football program … Thomas to show respect toward the players, their families and alumni … to make recruiting a priority.”

Matt Thomas said he’s trying to stay positive, but it’s hard since his job is to help raise funds.

“We can’t get people to pay their dues,” he said. “We’ve never been through anything like this. But this will be a rallying point for us. We’re a small school, but we’re close.”