Alcorn State is coming off a dramatic, come-from-behind win against Northwestern State and is set this weekend to play up a level against South Alabama, in its first season under Kane Wommack.
It's an opportunity game for the Braves (1-1), and it's a payday game for the Alcorn program as well.
Frankly, it's a critical contest for Alcorn for all those factors.
But the Braves' week of preparation has yet to get started. Multiple sources on Monday told FootballScoop that the Braves could not begin their week of practice because the football program currently does not have any full-time athletic trainers to care for its players, and the part-time trainers who have been covering the Lorman, Mississippi, program have tested positive for COVID-19.
UPDATE: The Braves, who set up their players' schedules to accommodate morning practices and mid-day through afternoon classes, once again could not strap on pads Tuesday morning to prepare for the scheduled game in five days against the Jaguars.
Per sources, Alcorn's coaching staff only held a light walk-through with no practice elements and no uniforms due to a continued lack of an on-hand athletic trainer, as is required by NCAA guidelines and also is customary from state health associations.
Alcorn coach Fred McNair, a former Braves standout-quarterback and multi-time SWAC Coach of the Year, elaborated on the situation during his Monday night 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. “That's deflating. That's unacceptable for me as a football coach. …
“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. We can't get treatment or rehab on this day, not knowing what's going to happen tomorrow. 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 the guys.”
Alcorn's contract to play at South Alabama represents a six-figure payday for the school, reportedly in the range of $300,000.
Per sources, currently no members of the Alcorn coaching staff or roster have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The Alcorn State University athletic teams have modified their practice schedules because of a COVID-19 related issue,” Alcorn athletics director Derek Horne said in a statement released Monday night by the school. “Throughout the pandemic, the health and safety of our student-athletes remain our trop priority.
“Alcorn will continue to monitor and maintain compliance with CDC, Mississippi State Department of Health and Institutions of Higher Learning guidelines, in addition to state and local regulations pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In a long-established health and safety provision, collegiate athletics teams are not allowed to conduct practices without the present of athletics trainers/medical personnel. The Braves, per sources, also could not get routine physical therapy for their players Monday, due to the absence of necessary medical personnel.
McNair said the Braves currently do not have a trainer scheduled to be on hand before Wednesday morning's practice and said that he could not guarantee the Braves would be able to conduct their regularly scheduled Tuesday morning session.
Earlier this year, Alcorn had initially hired a new, full-time replacement for its head athletics trainer position – before that person was offered a more lucrative opportunity at his employer.
“I don't keep nothing from these kids,” McNair said. “These young men and young women deserve a whole lot better than what they're getting here as far as the athletic training and all that. They deserve better. This is disheartening.”
The Braves are set to face Wommack's Jaguars at 8 p.m. Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.