Southern loses sprinter Devin Jenkins; coach Brian Johnson gets OK to talk with Georgia

Southern is losing its top track and field athlete, and the departure of his coach seems imminent as well.

Sprinter Devin Jenkins, the reigning 100- and 200-meter champion in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, has been granted his release from the Jaguars, Athletic Director William Broussard said Monday.

“He’s looking to move on, and we’re in the process of (finalizing his release),” Broussard said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to wrap it up by the end of the week. We want to do what’s best for him and what’s best for his family.”

Jenkins, a native of Hawaii who has two years of eligibility remaining, is expected to enroll at Texas A&M. The release means he would be immediately eligible with the Aggies.

Broussard also said he has given Georgia permission to speak with Jaguars track coach Brian Johnson about an assistant’s position on Wayne Norton’s staff. Norton is looking to replace Jon Stuart, who was named head coach at Southern Miss on July 21.

Johnson’s hiring with the Bulldogs could happen as early as Tuesday, sources told The Advocate. A former Jaguars athlete who was a long jumper on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, Johnson, who did not return a message Monday, has overseen a resurgence in the Southern program in his four years as head coach. The men and women both finished second in the SWAC championships last season.

Track and field practice usually begins shortly after Labor Day, which would leave Broussard with little time to find a replacement for Johnson.

Jenkins had times in three events that were good enough to qualify for the NCAA East preliminary rounds in the 100, 200 and as part of the Jaguars 4x100 relay team. His best time in the 100 was 10.16 (at the Georgia Tech Invitational), which tied for sixth-fastest in the East, and his 20.32 in the 200 at the LSU Alumni Gold Invitational was fifth-fastest. The top 48 times in the regional qualify for the NCAAs. Southern’s 4x100 relay team’s 40.16 at the LSU Alumni Gold tied for 17th in the East and the top 24 times qualify.

Jenkins and his teammates, though, were unable to participate in the NCAAs because of a post-season ban due to inadequate reporting of student-athletes’ Academic Progress Rates.

Broussard said Southern tried to convince Jenkins, who didn’t receive any other scholarship offers while in high school, to stay.

“Early in the summer we brought him in and said, ‘Hey, we really want to keep you here. We brought you here. We’ve coached you, we’ve developed you to this point. We want you to graduate from Southern,’ ” Broussard said.

“We don’t want to hold people hostage. We don’t want to keep people from pursuing what they want to do. If he’s not happy, he’s not going to compete with his heart as well as his body.”

Jenkins’ departure comes a week after Southern basketball coach Roman Banks announced that forwards Calvin Godfrey and Damien Goodwin had left the program. Godfrey reportedly is headed to Memphis and Goodwin is going to South Carolina Upstate. Broussard called Godfrey’s departure “a large loss,” but added, “the sun came up the next day.”

The departures are related in varying degrees to the ongoing NCAA postseason ban which started nearly a year ago.

It was one of several topics Broussard addressed as he spoke to the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday.

Broussard said the university is completing its annual eligibility certification, which will yield updated APR data for recent years. Broussard said he hopes to have a meeting with the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance in “late September or early October at the latest.”

“They want accurate submission of eligibility certifications,” Broussard said, “and (to see) that the policy that you have implemented not only accurately generates that information but generates it reliably semester in and semester out.

“If I’m no longer the athletic director here, if our compliance director is not here next year, if there are new deans in the departments, there’s a new chancellor, that the policy can stand on its own and reliably generate accurate eligibility certification.”

Broussard said Southern’s hiring of a full-time compliance director and a greater understanding by non-athletic department officials of the importance of their role in compiling usable data has him optimistic.

“I’m as confident as I have been at any step in the process,” he said. “We’re further along in the process than we have ever been.

“We’ve moved in a direction that the university has never moved in this significantly and with this much collaboration. So there’s hope moving forward that the pieces are in place, that we’ll be able to generate those reports accurately.”

Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate. Advocate sportswriter Sheldon Mickles contributed to this report.