Citing low team morale, frayed relationships between the coaching staff and parents of student-athletes, and poor on-field performance, the Alcorn State University Alumni Foundation is coordinating efforts to have Melvin Spears removed as Braves head coach.
The organization is hoping to raise $130,000 by Dec. 10, and then recommend to school officials that Spears be replaced because the overwhelming sentiment is that the program is “virtually unsalvageable without drastic changes.”
“We began this year with tremendous anticipation and expectations of a great season for Alcorn athletics,” according to a letter crafted by the group. “Alcorn hired new coaches in football and basketball, recruited a great class of student-athletes to complement those returning players, and alumni support was strong.”
“However, the football program has turned disastrous. The relationship between the football coaching staff and parents of some student-athletes has been volatile.”
Spears, in his first season at Alcorn State, was hired in January to take over for Earnest Collins, who left after just two seasons to take the Northern Colorado job.
Spears was picked ahead of former Alcorn football players Fred McNair, the brother of the late Steve McNair, and Dwayne White.
Many associated with the Alcorn football program lauded the hire at the time, saying it was the first step in elevating the team to the next level behind a coach who had won a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship as the head coach at Grambling State in 2005.
However, those lofty expectations have not been met through the first eight games of the 2011 season, as the Braves currently stand at 2-6 in the SWAC Eastern Division.
While the alumni organization understands all personnel decisions will ultimately be made by university President Dr. Christopher Brown and others, representatives said they could no longer ignore the concerns about poor coaching and the direction of the football program.
“We want to give the option to (Dr. Brown),” National Alumni President Percy Norwood Jr. told me in a phone conversation Tuesday. “It’s about performance on the job.”
Norwood went onto say his colleagues had been increasingly disenchanted with the regressing performance of the team, as well as the how Spears handled quarterback Brandon Bridge during the season.
Bridge, a highly-touted prospect, had a solid first season in 2010 as the Braves starter throwing for 2,086 yards, 19 passing touchdowns and eight rushing scores. During his 2011 campaign, Bridge threw five touchdowns for 632 yards and four interceptions. He played sparingly during that time before leaving the team in late October.
“We did not like it,” Norwood said, who wants the next head coach to be a program builder and someone who gets the most out of the athletes on the roster.
The losing, combined with some questionable decisions by Spears, prompted a paltry turnout of 2,500 during a recent home game against Alabama A&M.
According to Norwood, the university can’t afford to buyout Spears’ contract. Therefore, a special “Football Operations” fund will be setup to provide a mechanism for interested alumni to make contributions in order to give the school the flexibility to make changes without affecting other programs financially.
“Many of you want to support our Braves football program and are willing to voluntarily donate to help make this change possible if (Dr. Brown) so desires to make a change,” added the foundation in its letter.