Southern teams enjoying each other’s success

This championship stuff could become contagious.

The 2013 Southwestern Athletic Conference football championship trophy has found a home in Southern coach Dawson Odums’ office.

From there, it’s just a short walk to the F.G. Clark Activity Center, which houses both first-place basketball teams from the SWAC.

Earlier in this school year, the women’s soccer team won the SWAC regular-season title.

Right now is a good time to be a Southern Jaguar — and it’s not a real good time to be a Jaguar opponent.

The Southern men’s and women’s basketball teams have played eight doubleheaders in conference play, and only once did they fail to come away with a sweep. The women have won eight consecutive league games by an average margin of 12 points.

The only blemish on the teams’ records is the men’s 72-64 loss at Mississippi Valley State on Jan. 22, but they have rebounded to take decisive wins against Alabama A&M and Alabama State.

Both teams lead the SWAC by 1½ games as they approach the midway point of the conference schedule with games against Alcorn State on Saturday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

There’s still a lot of work to do before they can collect any hardware, but both teams are rolling — and enjoying their symbiotic success.

“We have a lot of momentum right now,” forward Damien Goodwin said. “Southern is really coming up in sports with what the football and soccer teams have done.

“We’re trying to carry that over and keep the winning going. We talk all the time since the beginning of the season about both of us winning championships.”

The success of the basketball teams isn’t surprising. The women were picked first in the SWAC preseason poll, and the men were picked second just a hair behind Texas Southern, and both programs have had success over the years.

The men have won eight regular-season titles and eight tournament titles, including the one last year in coach Roman Banks’ second season. The women have won five regular-season titles and four tournament titles, all but the 1993 regular-season title coming during coach Sandy Pugh’s 14-year tenure.

But the only time the men and the women have been champions in the same season was 2006 when both teams swept the regular-season and tourney titles.

The teams have achieved similar success in different ways. The women lead the SWAC in scoring and the men lead the league in scoring defense.

But one thing they have in common is they have established themselves as the teams to beat in the SWAC.

“Since I’ve been here, the expectation is the same for every team when they first walk in the door — to finish first,” Pugh said. “Since coach Banks has come on board, it’s been the same expectation for him, and they’ve had success also.

“It’s great for Southern’s athletic department, and it reinforces the idea that we’re back stronger than ever, and both programs reflect that.”

Several of the women’s players will hang around after home games to root on the men.

“They like to see us rooting them on,” center Jasmine Jefferson said. “They practice hard and we do the same, and at the end of the season, we want to both be on top. That’s our motivation.”

The teams went their separate ways during their pre-conference schedules, never playing in the same building on the same day.

But they can relate to each other’s pre-conference challenges. Both had to travel a lot and take on bigger programs to generate revenue.

Both teams seem to be benefitting in conference play from the high quality of pre-conference competition.

“It’s a good feeling,” guard Kendra Coleman said of both teams’ success. “We challenge one another. When we go on the road, we’re both representing Southern University in a good way.”

The mutual support extends beyond just the players and permeates the entire athletic department, the players and coaches said.

“There’s good camaraderie,” Banks said. “It’s one big family. The coaching staffs have a good rapport, and we have lunches together when we can.

“The players get together and get some shots up together in the gym. The teams are always pushing each other and pulling for each other.”

SU to honor seven legends

The men’s basketball program will honor seven former SU employees for their contributions to the athletics department during halftime of Saturday’s home game against Alcorn State at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

The honorees are former band director Isaac Greggs, former football coach Pete Richardson, former SU alumni president Donald Wade (posthumously), former football coach and athletic director Marino Casem, former athletic trainer Carl “Doc” Williams, former men’s basketball coach Ben Jobe and Jewel Durr Jefferson, affectionately known as “Mama Jag.”

The honorees will be recognized at halftime.