Southern University head football coach Dawson Odums has faced many tough opponents before. But nothing like what he and other coaches across the land have ever faced before as a player and/or a coach.
But you would have a hard time convincing Odums that the coronavirus is a significant obstacle.
“We have dealt with so much adversity in my time at Southern, so we are just adapting and getting ready to make adjustments,” said Odums, who is hoping to begin his ninth season as Southern head football coach.
“When the pandemic came along we slowed things down and focused on things we could control,” Odums said. “When things start back up, we’ll get ready to make adjustments. Nothing is predictable. That’s what life is all about. That’s part of the process. I told our coaches not to stress, just get ready adjust and help the players handle it. We will have them ready to compete.”
Southern canceled the first two football games of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The season-opener against Tennessee State at Ford Field in Detroit on September 5 and home-opener against Florida A&M are affected by these latest developments. The Jags will open the season on September 19 at Alabama A&M. The new home-opener will be on September 26 against Jackson State in the annual Pete Richardson Classic
“I don’t really know why we cancelled the first two games, but we just have to deal with it,” Odums said. “We have to adapt and re-focus. It’s tough opening against a conference opponent who may have a couple of games under their belt. But, then again, we don’t know if anybody will play their first two games,”
The SWAC has its hard deadline, according to Commissioner Charles McClelland. He told ESPN on Friday, June 19 that the conference is preparing to start its football season on Labor Day weekend but has a contingency plan to push it back as late as October 17. He said after the 17th would mean a complete cancellation of fall sports and the 17th is the hard deadline in place if the outlook, in terms of the coronavirus, has not improved.
In that same light, Grambling head coach Broderick Fobbs sent out a strongly-worded tweet Thursday, June 18, talking about teams in other conferences reconvening for .
”If we care about these student-athletes as people, workouts need to stop,” the tweet read. “Too many players are receiving positive test!!! Remember this is someone’s child.”
SWAC schools cannot reconvene for team workouts until July 8.
“Our biggest concern is making sure our players are safe,” Odums said. “We want to make sure they are our top priority.”
Odums said he has never seen anything like the current situation.
“We’ve had to cancel games because of a storm, but not an entire season,” he said. “But if you live long enough, you can experience a lot. One thing about this is we’re seeing how creative people can be and counting on people to make everything better.”
Odums said missing spring and at least part of summer has made preparing for the upcoming season difficult.
“We have to fill in those gaps now,” said Odums, who is one of only two coaches have conquered such feats as the SWAC West Title, SWAC Championship and being named SWAC Coach of the Year in their first full season as head coach.
Odums has compiled a 58-31 record at Southern, and 49-15 record in the SWAC. The Jaguars won the SWAC championship game in 2013 before losing in 2014.
Three Ferriday High football players recently committed to Southern. Odums cannot comment on specific players, but appreciates what Ferriday did last year in winning the Class 2A state championship.
“That is always a great accomplishment, especially at a place like Ferriday where they have come so close,” Odums said. “They’ve had some good runs and finally got over the hump. I’m happy for Coach (Stanley) Smith, his coaches and players. This is an achievement they can enjoy. They have some really good players and we are excited about being able to recruit there. It’s one of those high schools you know what you are getting when you bring in one of their players."