Dr. Dennis E. Thomas, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Commissioner and Alcorn State University alumnus, will give the speech during Alcorn’s Fall 2021 Commencement Saturday, Dec. 11, at 9 a.m. at the Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium.
A native of Heidelberg, Miss., Thomas entered his 20th year as MEAC commissioner back in September. During his two decades of service, the conference has remained financially stable, strengthened institutional compliance, and improved student-athlete graduation rates. He’s gained distinction as one of the leading collegiate administrators in America.
In a progressive move, Thomas inked a deal with GYO Score to create the conference’s esports community. He also executed his goal of purchasing the conference’s first office complex, which is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. The accomplishment marked the first time a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) conference owned its headquartered property without assessing MEAC institutions. Thomas also accomplished another first when led the MEAC to become the first NCAA Division I FCS conference to institute instant replay during its televised regular-season football games.
Thomas’ mission to increase the conference’s corporate resources has led to multi-year partnerships with Cricket Wireless, Russell Athletic Corporation, Coca-Cola, State Farm Insurance, Nike, Wells Fargo, ESPN, Jostens, United States Marines, Home Depot, Geico, Colgate Palmolive, Delta Airlines and the National Football League (NFL). Commissioner Thomas was instrumental in forging a partnership with the NFL to improve officiating and provide access for MEAC officials to advance to the next level. In May 2016, Commissioner Thomas also helped broker an off-the-field partnership between the NFL and the MEAC to boost opportunities for non-playing careers in professional football.
In 2017, the MEAC partnered with Collegiate Sports Management Group (CSMG), entering into a multi-year agreement in an effort to increase the conference’s corporate partnerships and branding. The relationship focuses on marketing and sponsorship rights, as well as helping to develop more national strategies across all avenues to assist with generating revenue for the conference and MEAC institutions.
Thomas was a four-year letterman in football and track and field in high school, and at the age of 16, he embarked upon a collegiate career that is still in the SWAC’s record books. In 1973, he made history as the first and only offensive lineman to be named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year, beating out JSU’s Walter Payton for the honor. He finished his collegiate career as a three-year letterman at Alcorn State, a two-time Pittsburgh Courier First Team All-American (1972-73), First Team Black Mutual Sports Network All-American (1973), and the Outstanding College Athlete of America (1974).
Thomas coached and played under the legendary coach Marino “The Godfather” Casem. During his playing and coaching tenure at Alcorn State, the Braves won SWAC football championships in 1970 as a player and 1976, 1979, and 1984 as an assistant coach.
Thomas was inducted into Hampton University’s inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame Class in 2009. He has also been enshrined into the Alcorn State University (Miss.) Hall of Fame (2010), the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame (2003), and the Black College Football Hall of Fame (2020).
Thomas earned his bachelor’s degree from Alcorn State University. He later earned his master’s degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo.