Alcorn State canceled practice on Monday and Tuesday due to a lack of available trainers, sources told The Athletic. Instead, it held only a walkthrough each day. Ahead of a game against South Alabama this Saturday, it’s possible the Braves may not practice at all during the week, and coaches are concerned about the safety of players.
Program sources told The Athletic early Monday about the situation, and head coach Fred McNair confirmed it on his radio show Monday night, putting the blame on the athletic department administration. The Mississippi school does not have a full-time athletic trainer, and its part-time contracted trainers are unavailable due to COVID-19. This is a program that has won consecutive SWAC championships and four consecutive division titles.
“We’ve got a big game that’s going to make the university money, and we can’t go out and get treatment for the young men and women and not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow,” McNair said. “This is something that needs to be fixed. This is an administration issue. I could talk about it until I turn blue. This needs to be fixed.”
In a statement to WLBT in Mississippi, athletic director Derek Horne said, “The Alcorn State University athletic teams have modified their practice schedules because of a COVID-19 related issue. Throughout the pandemic, the health and safety of our student-athletes remain our top priority. Alcorn will continue to monitor and maintain compliance with CDC, Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), and Institutions of Higher Learning guidelines, in addition to state and local regulations pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This is not a new problem. Alcorn State surprised many in February when it opted out of the spring 2021 season just weeks before games began. After all, this program has been the class of the SWAC. The school said it was due to COVID-19 concerns, but program sources said the team didn’t want to play due to staffing issues. It didn’t hire a new trainer until late January, and it didn’t have a new head strength coach until the beginning of the semester.
“Our administration didn’t shut (the season down), they were ready to go with no trainer or strength coach,” one assistant coach told The Athletic. “We let the kids decide. They went to the AD and said they didn’t feel comfortable with everything going on. Not once in that whole message was COVID brought up. We didn’t have a trainer and stuff like that.”
According to program sources, that new trainer, Fred Worthy, left for a job with Merit Health this summer. Instead of filling the position with a new full-time trainer, Alcorn State contracted Worthy and associates to fulfill the duties on a part-time basis. One source said the athletic department has lost several employees in recent years whose roles were filled by contractors. The department used to have a full-time trainer and graduate assistants. Now it’s just contractors and undergraduate student trainers.
“This whole thing is becoming ridiculous,” another assistant coach said. “It’s really sad. This is the worst I’ve seen it.”
(Photo: Ken Murray / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)