As Southern sought to clarify its ongoing eligibility saga Tuesday, another player’s uncertain status came to light.
The university put out a statement regarding the 11th-hour withholding of three starting defensive backs before the Jaguars’ 51-27 loss to Northwestern State on Saturday. Athletic Director William Broussard took the podium before coach Dawson Odums’ weekly news conference to address the rash of ineligibilities, which claimed five other starters less than two hours before the kickoff of the season opener at Louisiana-Lafayette on Aug. 30.
The three defensive backs — Kevin King, D’Andre Woodand and Dionte McDuffy — remain ineligible as Southern prepares for its Southwestern Athletic Conference opener at Prairie View on Saturday. Broussard said university officials are working diligently to try to recertify the three players, who were certified to play in the first two games.
But if and when that might occur is anyone’s guess.
Starting left tackle Reginald Redding revealed later Tuesday that he too was supposed to have been withheld from last week’s game, but he wound up playing because of what coach Dawson Odums called a “miscommunication.” He officially joined the three defensive backs in eligibility limbo Monday.
“It’s crazy because last Tuesday, I was told I was fine to play,” Redding said. “So I had to go through thinking I’m good, then not being good.
“Last night, I couldn’t even get any sleep because I was so worried about it. It’s very disheartening because I know how much I want to go out there and play, how much this game really means to me, how much I want to be out there and help support my team and give it my all. I know it hurts the team because I feel like I’m a valuable asset to the team.”
Redding has been on a roller coaster since the preseason. He was certified once before being decertified. Then came his recertification last week, which came five days after he was cleared to play after recovering from a concussion suffered in preseason practice.
“With a concussion, you kind of know how you feel and when you feel like you can be back,” Redding said. “With this, you’re just waiting. It’s hard. It could be today, it could be tomorrow, next Monday, two Mondays from now. I don’t know.”
In the meantime, Eric Janeau is working at Redding’s position while Redding and the other players in limbo work on the scout team.
“It’s emotionally draining more than anything else, because I can’t even be over with the starters in practice,” Redding said. “They have me on scout team right now because they’re grooming the younger guys who they know are certified and who they know can play.
“It’s hard for me to not be able to even be over there and help coach them up. But I’ll do my best to try and help the defense and give them a great look so they’ll be ready for this Saturday.”
Broussard said the latest uncertainties arose last Thursday because of “some flags” that were discovered while reviewing the players’ cases.
“We had some additional research and data to compile,” Broussard said. “We then worked over that next 48 hours as aggressively as possible with a mind toward accuracy to ensure that we had as much data in place to certify the eligibility of as many players as we could possibly certify going into the game.”
Broussard, who said federal law prohibits him from discussing specifics of any student’s case, added that there were other players whose availability was in doubt, but theirs was clarified before kickoff last week.
“As we continue to review or as the NCAA may request additional data to confirm certain students, until we can produce that data or those justifications,” Broussard said, “we’re going to always err on the side of caution.”
Broussard said the decision to withhold the players was made by Southern’s “certification committee.” The certification process is overseen by Jason Bern, the university’s compliance officer who works under Chancellor Flandus McClinton.
“We have an external certification process where once all of that data is submitted, it’s reviewed externally so that the athletic department is not unilaterally certifying student-athletes,” Broussard said.
The Jaguars are using a “brand new” certification process that was devised as part of an ongoing attempt to have an NCAA postseason ban lifted. The ban was instituted late last year when the NCAA discovered an overwhelming amount of “unusable data” in a random audit of Southern’s reporting of student-athletes’ Academic Progress Rates.
The current issues are arising as part of the university’s attempt to document the eligibility of student-athletes in all 15 sports for the academic year that began last month.
“The policies and procedures that we have approved were approved by the NCAA,” Broussard said. “That does continue to be a somewhat living and breathing document, because we do have to make changes and revisions to it over time to make sure that we’re working as efficiently as possible.”
Broussard said the certification process is taking longer than expected, at least in part because each clarification or correction can be time-consuming, requiring supplying as many as a dozen “supporting memos” to the NCAA and waiting days for a response.
“It’s not as simple as noting an inconsistency, fixing it and sending an email saying we fixed it,” he said.
Broussard added that university officials have “rechecked the rechecks,” and he believes the cases now being addressed are the final ones related to football.
“But,” he said, “there are no guarantees.”