“I think we’ve got something that we’re building that’s special. It’s great to have that consistency. I think once you get that stability in a program, you’re able to put your stamp on it.” Dawson Odums, Southern coach
Southern football coach Dawson Odums has a new message for recruits.
He had been telling them that even though he had just one year left on his contract and he had a job interview at North Carolina Central, he was working on a long-term commitment to the Jaguars.
But now that he has agreed to a three-year extension, subject to approval by the SU System Board of Supervisors, he can be more definitive.
“Now we’re able to go back into the homes of the young men after Christmas and let them know, ‘hey we’re going to be here at least until you graduate,’ ” Odums said Friday, one day after agreeing to the new deal. “That’s great when you start talking to freshmen and transfers and even junior college players, that the coach that is recruiting them is going to be there. It projects a sense of stability in the program.”
Stability is a word Odums used several times in describing the future he envisions in the wake of Southern’s first Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship in 10 years.
“I think we’ve got something that we’re building that’s special,” he said. “It’s great to have that consistency. I think once you get that stability in a program, you’re able to put your stamp on it.”
Odums, who received a 25 percent raise to a base salary of $175,000, said a commitment from Southern Athletic Director William Broussard to raise assistant coaches’ salaries as well was a key to the negotiations.
“As a head coach, you don’t do it by yourself, so you have to make sure that you have things in place for those other guys that are working hard too,” he said. “I really appreciate that we have a pool that we’re going to be able to use to increase our coaching salaries so these guys can have a comfortable lifestyle also.”
Odums said it’s also important to have the resources to attract suitable replacements when assistants inevitably accept better opportunities. He said he wasn’t aware of anyone on his staff being contacted by another school.
“But I’m quite sure that when you win, people like to pick from that tree that’s at the top,” he said. “We’re all grateful for where we are, but we understand the more you win in this profession, the more that telephone is going to ring with opportunities.
“I think the more successful we become and maintain that consistency, you’re always going to lose coaches, but I think that’s a good thing.”
Aside from boosting the assistants’ pay, Odums said short- and long-term facilities improvements are important to the program’s future.
He cited improvements to the practice facility, including the addition of a “nutrition bar” to the weight room, as things that will take “immediate effect.”
As for the long term, Odums said consistent winning will lead to greater facility improvements.
“With winning comes more money, then come better players comes, then higher enrollment,” he said. “Everybody knows those things are associated with winning. I foresee us outgrowing this building.”
Odums said he never received an offer from North Carolina Central, his alma mater, but Southern made a strong case that it was the best long-term home for him and his family in any event.
“You want to be at a place where the institution supports what you’re doing,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve had nothing but the greatest support from alumni, friends of the university, the athletic department. I think you’ve got to have that if you’re going to build a tradition.
“We had that before, we let it fall off, but I’m about sustaining that and moving this program forward. Just looking at all the pieces we have, all the players we have coming back we have the opportunity to do something great here. There are things in place that show me they’re committed to continuing to keep this program at the top.”
Odums noted Jackson State’s firing this week of its head coach, Rick Comegy, whose team lost to the Jaguars 34-27 in double overtime in the SWAC title game. Comegy had a 55-35 record during his eight-year tenure and brought the Tigers to the title game four times, winning the 2007 championship.
“He had a program up there that during his time there played for the championship a lot,” Odums said. “That’s what you want to be able to do as a coach. If we are somehow able to get our program to the point where year in and year out we’re going to be in contention for that trophy, I think you can elevate even higher with your long-term goals.
“To achieve (a championship) in your first year is great, but now the taste is there and you’ve got to be able to try and do it again. That’s my vision, and I think we can get there with the right support. It’s all about winning, and if we continue to keep getting good recruits in here and continue to be consistent in that approach, my long term (goal) is to take this program to even bigger and better heights.”