LORMAN – Melvin Spears has a “50-50” chance of returning as coach at Alcorn State next season, school president Christopher Brown said Monday, placing the spotlight of this week’s Capital City Classic on the first-year coach’s future.
Alcorn State (2-7) and Jackson State (8-2) play at 1 p.m. Saturday in Jackson with the Braves coach already under fire nine games into his tenure.
The program is being investigated by the school, and some Alcorn alums say they’re raising money for his possible ouster.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Spears said Monday. “No one wants to see Alcorn win more than I do.”
Alcorn, picked to finish second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Eastern Division, has won just one league game.
Quarterback Brandon Bridge, a preseason all-conference selection who accounted for 27 touchdowns last year as a freshman, left the team after being benched earlier this year.
Attendance at homes games has slipped to paltry levels – a combined 3,000 at the last two.
“We feel it’s time for a change,” said Percy Norwood, the president of the school’s national alumni association, which is not affiliated with Alcorn’s athletic department.
Norwood said alumni association members are pooling money to give Brown the option to buy out Spears’ contract. The coach is in the first year of a three-year contract paying him $130,000 a year.
“We want the president to operate all of his options,” Norwood said, “but the decision rests with the president.”
Brown, in his first year at Alcorn, hired Spears in January with a celebratory news conference at the downtown Jackson Marriott, giving the former Grambling coach another shot. Spears was fired at Grambling after three seasons.
Brown has created a commission to investigate the football program’s loss of revenue, attrition of players (and its effect on the Academic Progress Rate scores) and poor relationship with alumni and parents.
“There seems to be a great deal of contention between our alumni and this football program,” Brown said. “It’s clear to me there is something more than wins and losses.”
Said Norwood: “The treatment of student athletes and ability to deal with constituents – all of it plays into it. It’s essential that you have to deal with people in a respectful way.”
Norwood wouldn’t elaborate, but Chris Perkins did.
Perkins, a Byram resident, said Spears verbally threatened him and his son after his son, also named Chris, won an appeal to retain his scholarship.
Perkins said Spears informed his son, a receiver on the team last year, that his scholarship was being stripped three days before enrollment ended for this school year.
Said Brown about Spears and allegations against him: “There are a lot of unknowns surrounding him.”
Several other players have departed the program, namely Bridge, the Canadian called “Air Canada” by Spears on the day he was hired.
Contacted Monday, Bridge said he plans to transfer after his benching. He has visited Mississippi State and is “hoping” for a scholarship offer.
Meanwhile, Brown plans to meet with Spears soon and will reserve a final decision on his future until the commission completes its investigation.