ATLANTA,Ga– One of the greatest football players in the history of Alcorn State University, and one of the leading administrators in modern day college sports, is set to receive the prestigious Distinguished Service Award from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Alumni Association here in December.

Dr. Dennis Thomas, an All-American football player at Alcorn State from 1970 to 1974 and the current commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), will be honored by the SWAC Alumni Association during its annual Legends Awards and Roast on December 20 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel.  The luncheon event is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Tickets are $75 each with proceeds benefitting the Association’s Degree Completion Scholarship fund.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas (Photo Courtesy of the MEAC/SWAC)

“It is a heartwarming feeling to receive this award because people don’t give out awards unless you are doing, or have done, something significant in your professional life and in the organization that you represent,” said Thomas. “I played and coached in the SWAC as an assistant at Alcorn State, so this award means a great deal to me, simply because it is from my peers.  When your peers think well of you and want to bestow this type of award upon you, it is really a humbling experience.”


While playing for the Braves under legendary head coach Marino H. “The Godfather” Casem, Thomas managed to accomplish a feat that has never been replicated. In 1973, he became the first, and only, offensive lineman in the storied history of the conference to win SWAC offensive player-of-the-year honors. During his time as a student-athlete, he also reaped several national honors as well, including Pittsburgh Courier First Team All-America (1972 and 1973) and Mutual Black Network All-America (1974). He was part of four SWAC championships at Alcorn State, one as a player (1970) and three while serving as defensive coordinator (1976, 1979 and 1984).


Following his coaching career, Thomas served as Director of Athletics at Hampton University between 1990 and 2002. During that span, Hampton captured 17 Central Intercollegiate Athletics Association (CIAA) championships between 1990 and 1995 and 11 MEAC championships between 1996 and 2002.  He was named National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Athletics Director-of-the-Year for the Southeast Region in 2002.


Thomas started his current 18-year stint as commissioner of the MEAC in 2002 and the rest, as is said, is history. Under his leadership, the MEAC became the first NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) conference to purchase its own headquarters building complex, the first to institute instant replay for all televised games, the first to partner with the National Football League to improve football officiating and provide access for its officials to advance to the next level, and one of the first to establish a Digital Sports Network and have its Olympic sports games and championships televised on ESPN3, ESPNU and FloSports. The MEAC is also one of the just two FCS conferences to have its football offensive and defensive players-of-the-year awarded in New York as part of the National Football Foundation’s Annual Awards Dinner.


An inductee into the SWAC Hall of Fame (2003), the Hampton University Sports Hall of Fame (2009) and the Alcorn State Wall of Honor (2010), Thomas, a native of Heidelberg, Miss., was recently selected for induction into the Black College Football Hall of Fame in February 2020.


Thomas says he credits any accomplishments that he has garnered to his late parents.


“My role models were my mom and dad, Russell and Marjorie Thomas,” Thomas reflected. “They played an instrumental and influencing role in my work ethic, my discipline and my motivation to be the best that I can be.


“People should not work for honors,” said Thomas. “They should work to do the very best job that they can with their God-given abilities. I believe God’s gifts to man and woman are your talents and man and woman’s gifts to God are your achievements.”


Tickets to the SWAC Alumni Association’s Legends Awards and Roast can be purchased by sending a check or money order made payable to “SWAC Alumni Association” in the sum of $75 per ticket to: Alvin Moore at PO Box 5815, Birmingham, AL 35207. Moore can be reached via telephone at (205) 222-1044 or via email at



The SWAC Alumni Association was founded on December 10, 1999 in Birmingham, Alabama.  Its purpose is to serve as a rallying ground for individuals who have made the conference the illustrious conference that it is today.  Its membership is open to former or current student-athletes who played in the conference in any sport as well as to coaches, athletics administrators, game officials, fans and supporters.


(This Article and Pictures are courtesy of the MEAC and the SWAC)



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