Southern’s list of coaching candidates about to shrink

The race to become Southern University’s next football coach continues, and William Broussard said he hasn’t determined a favorite.

But he’s getting close.

The Southern athletic director completed phone interviews with six semifinalists this week. Now, the process picks up speed. Broussard will interview finalists face-to-face next week, and he plans to have a recommendation in place by Dec. 14, when the SU System Board of Supervisors holds its next meeting on the Baton Rouge campus.

“We’ve got several folks doing their homework on all our semifinalists,” Broussard said. “Where we are now is, we’re doing some follow-up conversations and ... drilling a little deeper. We’re getting to what the (coach’s) first 45 days would be like, what kind of staff he would want, what his approach would be.”

Southern has publicly identified four of the six semifinalists — Bethune-Cookman head coach Brian Jenkins, Nevada tight ends coach James Spady, former Southern and LSU assistant John Hendrick and current Southern interim coach Dawsom Odums.

Broussard has declined to name the other two candidates, saying their seasons are ongoing.

Southern will now narrow its list to two or three finalists, each of whom will come to Baton Rouge early next week for on-campus interviews.

“I would hope that we could bring in no more than three, but at the same time, you can bring someone in ... and something doesn’t seem right. So you keep working on the list and say, ‘There’s some things we didn’t notice about this candidate.’ ”

Among the known semifinalists, Jenkins, the Bethune-Cookman coach, seems to have generated the most buzz among Southern fans.

Jenkins is 27-8 in three seasons with the Wildcats, leading them to two appearances in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. They went undefeated in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play.

Jenkins was an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette from 2002-08. He also was wide receivers coach at Rutgers in 2009.

Broussard has said that his ideal candidates would meet two basic requirements: 1) experience as head coach, assistant head coach or coordinator; and 2) experience in recruiting the South, especially Louisiana and neighboring states.

Jenkins meets all those qualifications. But so, too, do the other known candidates.

Odums, of course, became the interim coach when SU reassigned Stump Mitchell after a 6-0 home loss to Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 13.

Odums led the Jaguars to wins over their top three rivals — Jackson State, Florida A&M and Grambling. But Southern also faltered down the stretch, dropping four in a row before rebounding to win the Bayou Classic, finishing 4-7 overall.

Odums said afterward that he wanted to be the head coach on a permanent basis.

Hendrick was an assistant at Southern in 1986 — just one stop among many in a long coaching career that began in 1983.

He has coached at Delaware State (1983), Pittsburgh (1984-85), Texas A&M (1987-88), LSU (1989-90), Kansas State (1992-93), Temple (1993-94), Mississippi State (1995-2002), Benedict College (2003-06), South Carolina State (2007), South Florida (2008-09) and Tulane (2011).

Hendrick was 19-24 as head coach at Benedict College, a Division II school in Columbia, S.C.

As defensive coordinator at South Carolina State in 2007, he led a unit that finished sixth nationally in total defense, allowing 286.7 yards per game.

Spady, a native of Biloxi, Miss., was offensive coordinator at Grambling under Rod Broadway from 2007-09, helping lead the Tigers to a 26-10 record and one Southwestern Athletic Conference title.

Spady was also a position coach at North Carolina Central, South Carolina State and his alma mater, UTEP.

Broussard said he doesn’t yet have a clubhouse leader. He also cautioned fans not to read into next week’s interview schedule.

“It’s not like a dog show, where you bring them on campus in order from top to bottom,” Broussard said.

Southern paid its past two head coaches, Pete Richardson and Stump Mitchell, an annual salary of $200,000, plus bonuses for winning the Bayou Classic and SWAC championship.

When Mitchell was hired in January 2010, he had $400,000 available for his staff of assistant coaches.

Broussard declined to give salary parameters, but said he believed Southern’s pay will rank among the top three in the SWAC.

“I’m pretty much coming in with a number and saying, ‘Can you make this number work?’ ” he said. “There’s certainly a range that we’re working with, and I think it’s a range that allows us to be competitive. ...

“At the same time, our institution is just emerging from financial exigency. It just doesn’t make sense to spend an exorbitant amount on football.”