Dawson Odums is no longer keeping the seat warm for Southern University’s next football coach.
He is the next football coach.
On Friday afternoon, the SU System Board of Supervisors approved Athletic Director William Broussard’s recommendation to remove the interim tag from Odums’ title, making him the long-term leader of a football program that will try again after many failed attempts to return to the top of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The board voted unanimously to approve the recommendation after hearing from Broussard, who reassigned Stump Mitchell on Sept. 14 and promised not to begin searching for a new coach until Southern’s season ended.
The search netted three finalists: Odums, Nevada assistant James Spady and Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins.
Spady, who was offensive coordinator at Grambling for three seasons, interviewed in person Monday. Odums had his final interview Tuesday. Jenkins pulled his name from consideration and got a contract extension at Bethune-Cookman.
In the end, Broussard settled on Odums, who led the Jaguars to a 4-5 record in their final nine games.
“He presented the most complete package for Southern University right now,” Broussard said.
“While other candidates left open questions — could he work within budget constraints? Could he coach athletes, as well as build men? Could he work collegially with current staff? Could he help rebuild Southern University athletics, while living in the spotlight as perhaps the most recognizable figure in the Jaguar Nation? — (Odums) left no doubt that he could rise to this occasion.”
Southern will hold an “introductory” news conference with Odums at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Odums missed Friday’s board meeting because he was recruiting.
The board’s approval wrapped up a search that reached far and wide for candidates but will upset parts of the SU fan base with its outcome. Although Odums has a notably large chunk of supporters at Southern, including many players and administrators, Broussard conceded that others won’t be happy with the move.
Southern must now fight a perception that it swung for the fences, whiffed, then ultimately settled on Odums as a fall-back option.
Broussard’s response: “Everybody wants to win the press conference and make the big splash. I’ve got to be concerned with what happens with the next 364 days and what happens after the press conference. And so, that’s what I concerned myself with, and that’s when he emerged as the obvious choice for me.”
Broussard declined to address specific details of Odums’ contract agreement, saying he believes the sides will finalize a deal Monday.
Broussard did confirm, however, that the contract will be guaranteed for only two years, with a mutual option for a third year. It is one year shorter than Mitchell’s deal, which had three guaranteed years and a mutual option for a fourth year.
The athletic director said he’s been instructed by the administration to limit contracts to two guaranteed years — in part because of the landscape at Southern, which is coming out of financial exigency.
Broussard said Odums’ annual salary will also be less than $175,000 — a significantly smaller payout than Southern gave Mitchell, who earned $200,000 per season.
On the other hand, Southern will likely have a larger pool of money to pay its assistant coaches, thanks to Odums’ smaller paycheck.
“We can take that (extra) money and redistribute that,” Broussard said.
Mitchell had $400,000 to spread among his assistants when he was hired in 2010.
Nearly three years later, Odums will be the next coach to rebuild a program that was once the best in black college football.
The Jaguars won five SWAC titles in an 11-year stretch under legendary coach Pete Richardson from 1993-2003, but much of the past decade has been a mess. SU went 29-24 in Richardson’s final five seasons, winning no Western Division titles.
He was fired after the 2009 season and replaced by Mitchell, who promised better results on game day and graduation day. Though Mitchell raised the team’s Academic Progress Rate, the Jaguars went 2-9 during his first season and 6-18 overall.
Mitchell was replaced by Odums, who lost more games than he won as the interim coach but also helped navigate the team through a tumultuous season that could’ve been worse.
Southern suffered a crushing 6-0 home loss to Mississippi Valley State in Mitchell’s finale, leading to his departure.
Eight days later in the Jaguars’ first game under Odums, they upset Jackson State on the road.
SU also defeated rivals Florida A&M and Grambling but suffered back-to-back one-point losses last month, part of a four-game slide that took the Jaguars out of title contention.
After the season ended, Odums continued to lead day-to-day operations of the program, saying the coaching job is his until someone says otherwise.
Now he’s in place for the long haul.
And no one can say otherwise.