With no athletic trainers available, Alcorn State University's football team canceled practice Monday. It's likely the team will cancel practice Tuesday, and it's even possible the Bravehawks will enter Saturday's game against Alabama State having not practiced at all this week.
Alcorn State, which has won consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and four consecutive division titles, does not have a full-time athletic trainer, and its part-time contracted trainers are unavailable due to COVID-19.
Program sources told The Athletic early Monday about the situation, and head coach Fred McNair confirmed the news on his radio show Monday night, putting the blame on the athletic department administration.
"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 NBC affiliate WLBT in Jackson, Miss., 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."
Alcorn State surprised many in February when it opted out of the spring 2021 season just weeks before games began. "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."
As reported by Chris Vinnini of The Athletic, athletic trainer Fred Worthy, left for a job in health care this summer. Instead of filling the position with a new full-time trainer, Alcorn State used contractors to fulfill the duties on a part-time basis. One source said the athletic department has used contractors to fill several openings in recent years. Whereas, the department used to employ a full-time athletic trainer and graduate assistants, it's now just contractors and undergraduate student trainers. That is, when they're even available.
"This whole thing is becoming ridiculous," another assistant coach said. "It's really sad. This is the worst I've seen it."