A tumultuous week for the Alcorn State football program – one that began with the Braves unable to practice because school officials had not secured medical coverage from certified athletic trainers and also had failed for multiple months to hire someone full-time – has started to round into the norm.
The Braves, still without a full-time athletic trainer hired into the position, returned to the practice field Wednesday and also conducted a lighter session Thursday with contracted help for athletic trainer coverage.
They are scheduled to play Saturday night at South Alabama in a game that, per sources, carries roughly a $350,000 payday for the Braves.
That game, now after consecutive days of work on the field for the players and the presence of contracted medical help, is expected to be played, per sources close to both programs familiar with the situation.
Controversy erupted at the small, tradition-rich HBCU program earlier this week when, after Alcorn defeated Northwestern State, it returned to campus Monday without any certified athletics trainers on hand.
That absence cancelled the Braves' normally scheduled practices for both Monday and Tuesday, with walk-through sessions the only option, and left veteran head coach Fred McNair – a former star player at the school and brother of late Alcorn icon, Steve McNair – fuming on his radio show.
“The biggest thing that is such a heartbreaking thing, is when you have meeting in the morning time, to talk about a great win and move on to the next game and come to find out we can't practice because we don't have athletic trainers on campus,” McNair told host Charles Edmond Monday night. “That's so deflating. That's unacceptable for me as a football coach, and I'm quite sure the other coaches feel the same way, because they can't practice, either. You have to have a certified athletic trainer on campus, in the building, to do these things, and we didn't have one.”
McNair emphasized his frustration was not to draw attention to himself but rather to shed light on the plight of Alcorn's female and male student-athletes, especially as the Braves are set to travel for the second time in three games – and facing a larger, Football Bowls Subdivision program in South Alabama with considerably more resources.
“We got a big game (at South Alabama) that's going to make the university money, and we can't go out and get treatment for the young men and women,” said McNair, who's achieved remarkable success at his alma mater with four-straight East Division titles in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and a pair of Celebration Bowl appearances. “We can't get treatment or rehab on this day, not knowing what's going to happen. This is something that needs to be fixed. This is an administration issue. I could talk about it all the way till I turn blue. This has got to be fixed.
“We've got to be able to pay somebody to be the Alcorn State athletic trainer, and we don't have one. That's disheartening. I told the players the reason we weren't going to practice this morning was because we didn't have a certified trainer and you could hear the room. It was a bad feeling for me to have to tell them.”