Bringing Soul Bowl back to Lorman is best move possible

Published 11:27 am Thursday, July 5, 2012

On the heels of the hiring of coach Jay Hopson in May, Dr. M. Christopher Brown has shown he isn’t afraid to push the envelope in building up Alcorn’s athletic program.

The two-year Alcorn president showed it this week with his announcement that Alcorn will finally host the Soul Bowl this season after an 18-year absence from Lorman, turning the game into a home-and-home series.

Lorman needs this game. Alcorn’s athletic department needs this game for the huge gate and credibility. Brown has talked at length about how he wants to bring a big-time atmosphere to home football games at the Reservation.

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Bringing alumni back to campus tends to open up pocketbooks. Bringing your biggest rival to town is a great way to do that.

“We want to be like Mississippi State and LSU when it comes to a home environment,” Brown said last month. “You’ve got people with no tangible connection to the university coming to campus. When you bring high-quality athletics onto campus, it becomes a community event.”

While Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium is a smaller venue than Memorial, with 22,500 seats vs. 60,000, bringing the Soul Bowl back to Lorman will give the program the excuse to add some more seating and more stadium amenities.

The game in Jackson has drawn an announced crowd of 33,600 fans the past few years, so the increased capacity at Memorial isn’t a big factor.

And then there’s the respect factor.

Can Ole Miss fans or Mississippi State fans imagine playing their biggest rival on the road every year? Of course not. The two schools gain a lot from having the Egg Bowl at on-campus sites. At least when the Egg Bowl was played in Jackson, it was a neutral site, something that can’t be said for the Jackson-Alcorn game.

Now the only thing that needs to be fixed is on the field. The Tigers have won 12 out of the last 18 meetings, including a 51-7 beatdown last season.

That’s going to take some time.

With Hopson arriving after spring practice, this will be a tough season for the Braves. In just a few short weeks in August, Hopson and his new coaching staff will have to figure out a depth chart, install new offensive and defensive schemes and get to know their team as well.

But Brown’s focus is on the long run.

“Our goal is to get our athletic department funding itself,” Brown said. “Two years ago, we weren’t able to get a crowd into the bottom level for basketball games. This year, we were able to pack out the gym and we want to continue that trajectory. We want to open campus to the community.”

With two critical decisions, Brown has shown he isn’t afraid to dream big when it comes to football particularly.

And that’s a good thing.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post.