Speaking at the weekly Baton Rouge Press Club luncheon Monday afternoon, Dawson Odums said he knew most of the media in the room wouldn’t pick him to start his run as Southern University’s permanent head football coach with a win.
The Jaguars open 2013 against the University of Houston on Aug. 30 in Reliant Stadium, a game that will net Southern’s athletic department a $350,000 payout.
But Odums, who inherited the Southern job full time after going 4-5 as the interim coach last season, said the talk around the Southern football facility this summer hasn’t been about collecting a check.
He said the Jaguars will play hard against an opponent transitioning from Conference USA to the new American Athletic Conference. He said they won’t be intimidated.
“If they put their pants on one leg at a time, we’ve got a chance,” Odums said he has told his players. He then added, “If you see anybody who jumps in there (with both legs) at the same time, call timeout. We’re getting on the bus and coming on back home.”
Southern played a similar opener last year, receiving the same payout — $350,000 — from New Mexico and taking a 66-21 pounding.
Southern Athletic Director William Broussard, part of the audience at Monday’s luncheon, said the Jaguars have agreed to play at Louisiana-Lafayette to open the 2014 season and will follow with early-season meetings at Georgia in 2015 and at Louisiana-Monroe in 2016. But he likes the trip to Houston for more than its ability to boost the Southern athletic budget.
Broussard said Houston, home of the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game for the first time, houses the largest contingent of Southern alumni outside Louisiana.
Plus, it’s easy driving distance for fans in Baton Rouge.
“It’s great to be able to play a game like that but also have your home base being close enough to make that game if they want to,” Broussard said.
Broussard said the move to The American Athletic Conference, formerly the Big East, will create a spike in Houston’s revenues.
“Their ability to pay larger payouts for football games will increase very rapidly in the next couple of years,” Broussard said. “If we go and have a good showing this year, that’s another opportunity for us to come back around three, four, five years from now and seek another opportunity from them for a larger payout.”
Odums has reason to believe his Jaguars can make a good impression.
Southern returns 15 starters from a team that upset Jackson State and Florida A&M after coach Stump Mitchell was reassigned and Odums was promoted to interim head coach. A series of narrow defeats cost the Jaguars a shot at a winning season, but they finished 2012 with a 38-33 victory over rival Grambling in the Bayou Classic, Southern’s first Classic win since 2007.
Quarterback Dray Joseph, the SWAC’s leading passer last year, and top target Lee Doss are now seniors.
“I really believe they can be a connection people will be talking about for years to come,” Odums said.
Odums said 70-80 players are on campus each day taking part in strength and conditioning coach Corliss Fingers’ summer workout program.
Getting ready for Houston can’t start soon enough.
“It’s an opportunity for us to really see where we are,” Odums said of the opener. “It’s a little different than opening with an FCS opponent.”
Southern, on Monday, unveiled its game day promotions and themes for the 2013 home football schedule, as well as its #NationUnited campaign aimed to increase the athletic department’s social media footprint.
#NationUnited is the hashtag fans can use to follow and share all news related to Southern sports on social media, following the #StandUnited campaign from last season.
The list of game day promotions and activities kicks off with Unite in White Alumni Day when Southern opens its home schedule Sept. 14 against Prairie View. Also that day, Southern will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1993 SWAC championship team in a pregame ceremony.
For a full list of 2013 promotions and gameday activities, visit www.gojagsports.com.
Fans can follow Southern athletics on Facebook at facebook.com/SouthernUJaguars and on Twitter @SouthernUSports.
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