Southern University football players report for preseason camp Wednesday intent on restoring pride to their program.
In years to come, they’ll fly across the country for big games against big teams, who will presumably cut some big paychecks.
SU coach Stump Mitchell said his program has agreed in principle to play two future away games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents - New Mexico in 2012 and Georgia in 2015.
Yes, that’s correct: The University of Georgia.
“This class we’re bringing in right now - a lot of them will be (fifth-year) seniors when we play there,” Mitchell said. “These guys understand we have to take care of business now. But for them, that year is when they’ll go from being a young pup to a grown man.”
Mitchell said that without a permanent athletic director, he has taken temporary responsibility of scheduling future games, though he added that Chancellor James Llorens “has to sign off on it.”
Mitchell said he approached Georgia, not the other way around.
In an email to The Advocate, Georgia spokesman Claude Felton said: “We have had discussions with Southern University and have a memo of understanding to play; however, there is no contract finalized at this point.”
Attempts to reach New Mexico spokesmen were unsuccessful.
Asked how much the potential payouts for both games will be, Mitchell replied: “A lot.”
Southern has never played a Southeastern Conference team in football, and to date, only two games have pitted SWAC and SEC teams. Both games happened in the past two years. In 2009, Jackson State played at Mississippi State, losing 45-7.
Last season, Alcorn State made the trip to Starkville, losing to MSU 49-16.
Other SWAC teams have played other BCS-level programs, with little success. In 2009, Grambling suffered a host of injuries in a 56-6 loss at Oklahoma State, then faced Prairie View in a game that decided the SWAC Western Division.
Grambling lost, 35-32, and then-coach Rod Broadway later lamented that the Oklahoma State game hurt his team’s chances at a conference title.
Mitchell said he’s not overly concerned that such a game could ruin his team’s season.
“I think our program will be on solid footing,” Mitchell said. “But I think it helps us in terms of getting these local kids to come to Southern - to give them the chance to travel, to play against these D-I schools.
“They know about Georgia. It’s their chance to compete against the best, and the scouts can believe what they see.”
New Mexico, a member of the Mountain West Conference, hasn’t played a Football Championship Subdivision opponent since 2007, when it defeated Sacramento State, 58-0.
New Mexico finished 1-11 last season.