Southern didn’t need North Carolina Central to show interest in Dawson Odums to appreciate what it had in its head football coach.
Likewise, Odums didn’t need to do any comparative shopping to appreciate what he had at Southern.
NCCU bringing in Odums to interview for the Eagles head coaching position didn’t change the fact that Odums was the right coach for Southern and Southern was the right place for Odums.
In fact, a brief negotiating period that yielded a three-year contract extension for Odums on Thursday reinforced to both sides what a mutually satisfying union this has become.
When NCCU interviewed Odums a week and a half ago, Jaguars Athletic Director William Broussard didn’t panic.
He knew the Eagles had one thing he couldn’t match: the emotional tie Odums has to his alma mater. But Broussard was confident in what he did have to offer.
Likewise, Odums was able to look past the attraction to his home state and the place where he played football and earned his bachelor’s degree, and appreciate the bird in the hand.
Broussard had the patience to allow Odums and his staff to focus on an important weekend of visits by recruits last week before presenting an offer to Odums’ agent.
After less than 48 hours of give and take, both sides were satisfied with a new deal that will have Odums remaining as the Jaguars head coach through the 2017 season. The 25 percent pay raise to $175,000 annually was well-deserved and still reasonable within the economics of Southern and its Southwestern Athletic Conference brethren.
The promised pay raises for Odums’ staff were also well-deserved and reasonable. Projected facility improvements will become more realistic if the Jaguars continue winning, as they did by capturing their first SWAC title in 10 years this past season and thereby generate more revenue.
Broussard said the athletic department has enjoyed a better than 20 percent increase in revenue during the past two years.
So things are looking up at Southern since Odums took over two games into the 2012 season, and Odums already has seen what can be accomplished on the Bluff.
Broussard said he heard from supporters who expressed the urgency in keeping Odums.
“But,” Broussard cautioned, “that can’t ever be the driving force behind something like this.”
He talked about the “arms race” in college athletics and the danger of overspending.
“That has led in the past, especially in the past decade or so, to some rash and often damaging decisions, particularly tied to head coaches’ salaries and salary pools for football and investment in infrastructure,” Broussard said. “There’s a level of reason that has to be employed where you take into consideration all factors.”
Broussard said the just rewards for Odums and his staff as well as proposed infrastructure upgrades must “be done with a mindfulness toward the entire operating budget of the department.”
In other words, Broussard and the Southern administration did what they could do — and Odums appreciated what they did.
When Broussard decided to remove Stump Mitchell as head coach after an 0-2 start in 2012, he tabbed defensive coordinator Odums to be interim coach. The Jaguars’ 4-5 record under Odums was good enough to make him a candidate to be the next head coach.
After Broussard conducted a thorough search, he came to the conclusion that Odums was the best man for the job. Realizing that the climate around Southern in the wake of a third consecutive losing season wasn’t right for a long-term deal for someone who had coached just nine games or for a salary comparable to the $200,000 that Mitchell and his immediate predecessor, Pete Richardson, had been paid, Broussard made a modest contract offer.
Odums accepted the two-year deal with a $140,000 annual base salary just as he accepted the unspoken “prove to us that you’re worth more” challenge that came with it. He, his staff and their team did just that.
As the Jaguars were winning their final five games, it became clear to Broussard that it would behoove Southern to make a pre-emptive strike against inevitable suitors for Odums.
Though NCCU called and even interviewed Odums, the Eagles never made an offer to him before hiring South Alabama wide receivers coach Jerry Mack. So Odums never had to choose between his alma mater and his current home.
And it sounds like that’s not likely to happen in the future either.
“I’m a different kind of guy,” Odums said. “I only knock on your door so many times, and if you don’t let me in, I respect you for what you’re trying to do. But I just don’t foresee that in the future that’s a door I’ll knock on.”