Odums takes his turn in SU search

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Southern University Jaguars wide receiver Lee Doss (2) rubs Southern University Jaguars interim head coach Dawson Odums' head after they won the Bayou Classic.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Southern University Jaguars wide receiver Lee Doss (2) rubs Southern University Jaguars interim head coach Dawson Odums' head after they won the Bayou Classic.

Two interviews down. One interview to go. And one big decision still remains for Southern University.

Interim football coach Dawson Odums made his final case Tuesday to stick around on a long-term basis, interviewing face-to-face with Athletic Director William Broussard and the SU search committee.

Odums’ interview came one day after Nevada assistant James Spady wowed the crowd with a deep, detailed plan on how to be a successful head football coach at SU, during which he covered everything from how to address a frustrated fan base to the most-effective ways to recruit local athletes.

Up next: Brian Jenkins, the current head coach at Bethune-Cookman, a man who brings arguably the strongest résumé among the three finalists to replace Stump Mitchell.

Jenkins will interview Thursday.

Broussard intends to make a final choice and recommendation to the SU System Board of Supervisors at their meeting Friday.

“I’m not going to make a final decision until Thursday, after we’ve had a chance to interview all the candidates,” Broussard said. “I do know come Thursday, I’ll know what the scenarios are. ... And I do know this: The two coaches who have interviewed could be successful coaches here. These are two very strong prospects.”

Odums said if he gets the job long-term, Southern fans and alumni will continue to see improvement in things like fundamentals and discipline.

For much of the past decade, the Jaguars often came up short in those areas.

Southern’s football program, once the jewel of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, has posted a 39-47 overall record since 2005.

The Jaguars went 6-16 in two-plus years under Stump Mitchell, who was reassigned after a Sept. 13 home loss to Mississippi Valley State.

Odums went 4-5 after that.

“I really think it would just be a similar approach to what you saw the last nine games of the season,” he said. “I think I bring some excitement, some enthusiasm to the players, and I think it would be good to keep some continuity.”

In the nine games on Odums’ watch, Southern was at least competitive. The Jaguars swept their top three rivals — Jackson State, Florida A&M and Grambling — for the first time since 1996, just before the peak of the Pete Richardson era.

In four of Southern’s five losses under Odums, they were within one possession of their opponent in the fourth quarter.

On the other hand, Southern suffered through a four-game losing streak, with heartbreaking one-point losses to Alabama A&M and Alabama State.

Odums said those near-misses were the toughest part of his time as interim coach. Naturally, he believes that with an offseason of recruiting, workouts and togetherness, the Jaguars could close out more games and contend for the Western Division title.

At the moment, Odums is still in charge of the day-to-day operations of Southern football.

“We’re putting together a plan. We’re still recruiting,” he said. “We’ve guys out on the road, and we’re moving forward. The bottom line is, I’m still the coach here at Southern University until I’m told otherwise.”

That moment may come Friday, if Broussard comes to an agreement with another finalist.

Spady, who interviewed Monday, was back at Nevada in less than 24 hours; he and the Wolf Pack are facing Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday.

Spady, a former offensive coordinator at Grambling, is the only finalist who hasn’t walked a sideline as the head coach.

He insists, however, that with 20 years of experience as a college assistant, he’s ready.

“I’m a big believer in visualization. I’ve put myself in that position before,” Spady said.

“You name a president that you love, and I guarantee you — the first time he was a president, he wasn’t a president before that. At some point, you’ve got to have a mark on whatever’s next. I would just say that if you have doubts, give me an opportunity, and I believe I’ll prove myself.”

Asked Sunday about his impending visit to Southern, Jenkins called it “a joint evaluation,” a chance for both sides to see if they share the same goals and interests.

Spady and Odums have made their cases already.

Now they wait.