NEW ORLEANS — Dawson Odums and Doug Williams chowed down on shrimp and oyster po-boys in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Tuesday looking like a couple of men who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.
Which, in Odums’ case is actually true, because the Southern interim coach’s future might be riding on the result of Saturday’s Bayou Classic, if it hasn’t already been decided.
Odums could even joke at Tuesday’s press conference promoting the event — saying that the thing he was most nervous about was driving SU Athletic Director William Broussard back to Baton Rouge safely.
Williams presumably has more job security.
But the second year of his second stint as Grambling’s coach has been a 1-9 nightmare, and according to Williams, at least one prominent alumnus is very restless: himself.
“People forget that I’m an alumnus, too,” he said. “This has been a tough year, one that nobody at Grambling is used to.
“These are the kind of years that will blindside you. No coach can say back in August he saw something like that coming.”
Certainly Odums can say he didn’t see his situation coming either.
Two games into Stump Mitchell’s third season, Mitchell was fired after a desultory 6-0 loss to Mississippi Valley State and Odums, the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator, was tabbed by Broussard to take over.
“He (Broussard) called me in that morning and said he wanted me to become the head coach,” Odums said. “I didn’t have to think about it long.
“I only considered myself the interim coach for one game. Since then, I’ve been the coach in every sense of the word.”
And, added Odums, who is 3-5 since that day, with the past two defeats each coming by a single point, he wants to be back.
“Who wouldn’t want to be?” he asked. “It’s a great place.”
Broussard, himself in his first year at Southern, has been circumspect on Odums’ status.
But Tuesday, while saying he will make that call after Saturday’s game, he also indicated he had a search process in mind that did not necessarily include Odums, outlining plans to interview three or four candidates with the intent to make a decision by mid-December.
“The job really hasn’t even been posted yet,” he said. “And I have been very careful about disclosing only to my chancellor what my plans are.
“Coach Odums has done a good job. Spot us 14 points, and we’re 7-3 instead of 3-7.”
Odums said he knew only that Southern beating Grambling for the first time since 2007 could only improve his status.
“Winning always helps,” he said. “But the best thing I can do now is to get my team as ready to play Saturday as best I can.”
Williams’ situation is complicated by the fact that he is “Doug Williams,” All-American Heisman finalist as a player at Grambling, the first and to date only, black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, the successor to the legendary Eddie Robinson, and winner of four SWAC championships in six years before leaving to take a front-office job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with another title tacked on last season when he returned to the spot.
Plus, Williams’ son, D.J., is the Tigers’ starting quarterback. D.J. Williams, a sophomore, has completed only 47 percent of his passes for two touchdowns with six interceptions.
“I am Doug Williams,” Williams Sr. said. “But I don’t look at it from the standpoint that because I’m Doug Williams we’re supposed to win, because I’m not playing any more.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people out there saying D.J’s only playing because I’m the coach. It not always the quarterback as much as it is the people around the quarterback. We haven’t pass blocked; we haven’t run the ball well, and we haven’t played good defense.”
Williams also points out that he has only 18 juniors and seniors combined on his roster, with just 10 of them starting.
“Once we start get some better players back here, we’ll start winning again,” he said. “And I’ve never been around a team that practiced harder.”
Similarly, Odums praised his players, both for the way they handled the firing of Mitchell and then the way they have played and practice as hopes for a successful season slipped away.
“They’re a resilient bunch, and they love playing football,” he said. “If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have gone out and beaten Jackson State that first week.
“And they’ve never quit. What I want for them is to be in the best possible position to win the Bayou Classic, because there’s not a player on this team who has ever been part of doing that.”