Felix Harper, Alcorn State
Photo: Mandela Jones/HBCU Sports

Alcorn State was placed in the unenviable position of preparing for a game without the ability to practice or work out due to a lack of training staff.

For two days, last week ahead of its game at South Alabama, the Braves couldn’t practice or, said head coach Fred McNair, even put the players through routine conditioning drills.

By NCAA rule, all athletic programs must have a trainer available for practices and games.

Also read: Alcorn State cancels practice amid ‘disheartening’ athletic training staff shortage

Despite the challenges of the week, Alcorn State fought valiantly in a 28-21 loss to the Jaguars. But those untenable 48 hours not involved in on-field football activity was evident, said McNair.

“We didn’t get a chance to condition the young men like we should have,” he said in response to a question about whether his players physically were worn down in the fourth quarter. We didn’t get a chance to condition at all.

“Later on in the game, it kind of caught up with us. So my guys were cramping up because of that. I told the guys that we don’t make excuses, we find solutions. The guys played hard for this coaching staff and continue to do that.”

McNair said the team now has a full-time athletic trainer working with the team. A report by the Vicksburg Post indicated that the team lost its full-time trainer right before the season and had been using part-time workers outsourced from Mississippi-based Merit Health.

When asked what message should the school’s administration take away from the sequence of events that hamstrung the football operation, the longtime coach said, “just this is a very important position to have in your department.”

During his portion of Monday’s media session, Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders offered support for McNair and lamented about Alcorn’s plight.

“I wish we could have the relationship that we could call each other because we have how many hospitals in this city (Jackson),” said Sanders. “I probably would have did it myself … sent you several trainers. Those kids deserve to be there. Those kids deserve to play.”

And we can’t practice because of trainers? Like, please. My brother McNair is a darn good coach and that’s a good team.

Sanders, the egalitarian that he is, petitioned McNair to reach out to him for assistance.

“My brother McNair if you can hear me right now if you have any problem call me. If I can help, I’m gonna help immediately,” said Sanders, who explained that he first encouraged McNair while on a recruiting trip at Southern Miss. with one of his sons.

“This is bigger than these little rivalries. This is about these kids, man. That’s a problem up top. That’s not him, that’s a problem somewhere else.  This is one of our treasures in HBCU. We’ve got to have his back.”



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