Southern coach Dawson Odums on the new Bayou Classic trophy: ‘It’s got that Mortal Kombat-type feel’ _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Southern coach Dawson Odums, Dr. Ray L. Belton, president-chancellor of Southern University and Grambling president Dr. Willie D. Larkin. and coach Broderick Fobbs unveil the new Bayou Classic trophy. The one used since 1974 was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Grambling and Southern play Saturday in the 42nd Bayou Classic in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Like all relationships, the Southern-Grambling rivalry needed to add something new to spice things up.

Both teams agreed to retire the old version of the Bayou Classic trophy. On Tuesday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, they unveiled a new one, which, of course, will go to the winner of Saturday’s game.

The old trophy went to Southern’s campus for a few months after the Jaguars beat Grambling in last year’s Bayou Classic. Both teams agreed to donate the trophy for permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“It’s outstanding. I thought the (sculptor) did a great job on it,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “It’s got that ‘Mortal Kombat’-type feel.”

Ryan Rivas, the designer and creator of the new version of the Bayou Classic trophy, said this is his first time designing a trophy for any type of bowl or rivalry game. He added he is just enjoying the experience of being involved with a tradition-rich game like the Bayou Classic.

“It’s been really fun to see the excitement that everyone has for the game and how passionate they are about it,” Rivas said. “I think (the trophy) came out amazing. We wanted to make it more modern and bring it to a younger audience.”

Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs added: “It’s a very nice trophy, and we’d love to take it home.”

Still a big game

The result of Saturday’s Bayou Classic may not affect Grambling’s berth in next week’s Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.

But the Tigers still consider their matchup against Southern as huge.

After losing its first two games of the season against California and Bethune-Cookman, the Tigers went on to win eight consecutive games in SWAC competition and locked up a spot in the conference championship game against Alcorn State.

Fobbs said the old adage — taking things “one week at a time” — has been a reason the team was able to win eight straight. Coaches and players will stick with that credo as they prepare for this week, he said.

“This is a huge game for us. In my opinion, it affects us,” Fobbs said. “It’s a great opportunity to play in front of a great crowd, and we want to show what we can do.”

Fobbs also added that the effects of winning a Bayou Classic goes beyond what it impacts in that season.

“Its for bragging rights and it’s for recruitng,” he said. “They target the same guys (at Southern) we target, and you always want to sell your program the right way to attract the right players.”

Odums, who is 3-0 in the Bayou Classic, said his team knows the challenge ahead.

“They’re 8-0 (in the SWAC), so we know it’s going to be a great test for us,” he said. “They have a really good football team and we’re going to have to play at our best to take them down.”

Odums on Miles

Even though Odums has Saturday’s game to worry about, he took some time out at during media availability to make it clear he has great respect for another well-known coach in Baton Rouge.

The Southern coach said he feels for Les Miles, whose job security is onviously in question at LSU. But Odums said he knows Miles will focus on nothing more than the team’s next game, as any coach would.

“When you’re in this profession, you have to worry about what you can control,” Odums said. “They have another game and they are bowl-eligible, so I’m sure that’s his focus.”

Economic impact

The city of New Orleans expects more than 200,000 people to make the trek for this weekend’s game and surrounding events. It will provide more than 90-percent occupancy in the in the city’s hotels, and the weekend will have a $50 million economic impact on New Orleans, city officials said.