Ex-Alcorn State coach to appeal firing to IHL

Published 1:22 am Friday, January 30, 2009

Former Alcorn State football coach Ernest T. Jones says he will ask the state College Board and a Mississippi court for the impartial hearing he failed to receive from a university grievance committee that upheld the coach’s firing this week.

The university sought to fire Jones on Dec. 11, exactly a year after he was hired as the Braves’ coach. Following an appeal before the grievance committee, the school announced Tuesday that Jones had been fired on the grounds of “malfeasance and contumacious conduct.”

Lawyers for Jones said Alcorn president George E. Ross, who appoints members to the grievance committee, had a vested interest in the appeal’s outcome since Ross is a defendant in a $3 million breach of contract lawsuit filed by Jones, a statement from the coach said.

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“The committee makes a recommendation to Ross who makes the final decision as to whether to terminate the coach. Ross is not bound by the recommendation of the committee. … The employee is not entitled to see a copy of the recommendation,” Jones’ lawyers said.

Jones was not allowed to challenge the evidence or the credibility of the witnesses who testified against him, the attorneys said.

“The decision was reached following ASU’s fulfillment of due process procedures as indicated under the terms of Jones’ employment contract,” Ross said.

The school has not released the details of the alleged unlawful misconduct.

Ian Guerin, a spokesman for the Lefft Law Group, which represents Jones, said the allegation concerned a personal bank account set up by Jones for his television show. And there was nothing improper about it, he said, and no charges were ever filed against the coach.

“It is pretty commonplace for coaches to set up these separate bank accounts for their TV shows. They are generally in charge of paying the production cost,” Guerin said. “It was even what they had done with the previous coach at Alcorn State.”

Jones’ latest appeal is the most recent development in a long battle between the coach and the Football Championship Subdivision school, which fired seven of Jones’ assistants in November only to reinstate them before firing Jones days later. Jones continued to recruit through the first appeal.

Alcorn went 2-10 last season, but lost six games by a touchdown or less and four games in the final minute. The Braves were 2-8 in 2007 under former coach Johnny Thomas.

The breach of contract lawsuit was filed Dec. 5 against the university, Ross, athletic director Darren Hamilton and the state College Board.

Jones was hired on Dec. 11, 2007, and according to his lawsuit worked without a contract until Aug. 11, 2008. He was hired by an interim president at a time when Alcorn State was still searching for an athletic director.

The school hired Hamilton as athletic director in April 2007 and about a month later Hamilton issued a letter of reprimand to Jones for allegedly missing a meeting with him. According to the lawsuit, Jones’ relationship with Hamilton was rocky from the beginning and never improved.

Jones, a former Braves wide receiver, accused Hamilton of breaching his contract by forbidding him and his staff from earning outside income, including money from sports camps.

Hamilton, who did not immediately return a telephone call Thursday seeking comment, has refused to address the coach’s accusations.

Jones said in the statement that he served Alcorn State with “integrity and honor.”

“I conducted myself every day in a manner which was both in the best interest of the university and the young men who I was hired to serve,” Jones said. “It is my hope that I can continue to serve student athletes, administration and fans of Alcorn State for years to come.”

Ross said an interim head football coach will be named soon and the search process for a permanent replacement has begun.