Southern restricts media access in move to improve as team

Southern has changed its media policy in the wake of an 0-2 start and some ill-timed comments by one of its top players.

The school will limit media access to three senior captains on the football team — quarterback Dray Joseph, defensive end Kadeem Lewis and cornerback Virgil Williams — until further notice.

Although the school realizes this will hamper some media outlet’s ability to cover the team, Southern Athletic Director William Broussard said that was a necessary tradeoff as Southern coach Dawson Odums tries to mold his team.

“That’s something we’ve got to live with,” Broussard said Thursday. “That’s the consequence we’ll take.”

Southern linebacker Anthony Balancier was quoted by WAFB-TV, Ch. 9, as saying Northwestern State was “horrible” in the days before the game. Northwestern State players and coaches acknowledged they used that statement as motivation while blasting Southern 55-14 in Natchitoches on Saturday.

Tuesday, Odums announced Balancier was suspended for one quarter of the Prairie View game. He has since been suspended for the entire game, Southern sports information director Chris Jones announced Thursday.

“The purpose of it was, until we get a better handle and the team does stuff internally to kind of discipline what took place last week and get guys to understand it’s not what we want at the program, it’s going to be those three guys,” Jones said. “Now as each week progresses, it will change.”

Southern coaches were disappointed that a senior would say something derogatory about an opponent on camera and were frustrated that the comment may have affected how the team played at Northwestern State, Broussard said.

To that end, Odums wants his team to concentrate more on improving as a football team off to a difficult start and facing a critical stretch to begin Southwestern Athletic Conference play than on any media obligations, Broussard said.

“This is not going to be something permanent,” Broussard said. “This really, truly is an identity crisis we need to solve.”

“It’s not against what the media or anybody else is doing,” Odums said. “It’s just certain guys are getting pulled out that are not ready to talk to the media. We want to control that. Chris and I are going to work together to control that.”

Jones first revealed the change Monday, and Southern coach Dawson Odums discussed the new policy Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

Tuesday, it appeared as though the new policy would be in effect until after Southern returns from its open week. That may or may not be the case anymore.

“I don’t think it will be that long,” Odums said Thursday. “I just think it’s really trying to get these guys to understand how to handle the media, give us a chance to get some media training with them and, you know, help them and present their statements. That’s all. I don’t think it’s that big a deal.

“We’re going to work with you guys. We appreciate what you do.”

When other players will be able to be interviewed has not been established.

Said Odums: “So, just right now, we know it’s three guys. And that may change on Monday. But as of today, going into the bye week, it’s three guys.”

Said Jones: “Depending on the circumstances, it’s something that could last past this week. But as the week progresses, especially next week, it obviously has the potential to change.”

Odums said Thursday that Jones would be present for interviews.

“I understand we’re restricting access, but what we’re doing is just really trying to keep it so that they have an understanding of what we’re trying to get done and help you guys (in the media) out in the process,” Odums said.

Williams and Joseph said the incident with Balancier had been a teaching moment for the team.

“I look at it as a lesson to us — even as captains, me, Dray and Kadeem,” Williams said. “The rules go for everybody. There are always rules to whatever you occupy yourself with. I agree with his decision. Just set an example for the younger guys also, letting them know how to talk to the media.”

Joseph has said, even before the incident, he always told younger players to stay positive.

“After the incident we had last week, you learn from those things,” Joseph said. “The main focus is, just to respect all your opponents.”