East: Things looking up for Southern — yes, really _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Southern players take selfies on the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after their 52-45 win over Grambling in the Bayou Classic on Nov. 29.

As the Southern football team reports Sunday for the start of preseason camp, things are looking up around campus.

Yeah, several players are academically ineligible.

Yeah, it’s unclear who will be in the athletic director’s office when the first practice takes place Monday.

And, sure, it’s not certain where that first practice will be.

But things really are looking up when you put the start of this camp in the context of the recent past surrounding the Jaguars, who generally have responded well to adversity.

Three years ago, the team endured a coaching change after a dismal 0-2 start and played respectably in winning four of its last nine games.

Two years ago, the team was on the verge of falling to 0-3 before managing the first of two comebacks from double-digit deficits to win games that were catalysts for a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.

Last year, the team endured a revolving door that shuffled players onto and off the field as they were academically certified and decertified — sometimes on the day of games — to return to the SWAC title game.

“One thing I know from being around here is that something is going to happen that you didn’t count on,” said coach Dawson Odums, who was thrust into his current position after that 0-2 start in 2012.

Once again, several players have been declared academically ineligible, but that isn’t uncommon as summer grades are posted. Appeals have been filed, which also isn’t uncommon.

So things are looking up — at least so far — compared to last season, when five starters were pulled from the team bus less than two hours before kickoff of the season opener. Three starters were pulled after the national anthem two weeks later.

Now William Broussard is on his way back to the athletic director’s office after a four-month reassignment. Maybe.

Broussard, who was the point man for cleaning up the university-wide record-keeping system that caused a year-and-a-half-long NCAA postseason ban before his mysterious reassignment, plans to resume his athletic director’s role Monday, as was spelled out when the reassignment was announced in April.

The university, though, will neither confirm nor deny that Broussard is returning to his former office — even as an Aug. 15 deadline looms for sending new academic data to the NCAA. A repeat of past submissions of unusable data or inadequate academic progress rates will lead to more probation.

Regardless of when, or if, Broussard resumes leadership of the athletic department, there will be next to nothing he can do to affect the data that’s due in two weeks. But less than two months after men’s basketball coach Roman Banks assumed Broussard’s duties, the NCAA lifted the postseason ban.

So in terms of academics and NCAA relations, the athletic department is in the best shape it has been in during the last two years.

For now, anyway.

Finally, a renovated practice field is supposed to be ready for the first workout.

Odums said he’s unsure if the project is on schedule. In any event, the practice field represents a step forward and figures to be available soon, if not in time for the first workout.

After holding practice at four different venues last season, occasionally in the dark, Odums is not going to be fazed if there’s a delay.

“We have a philosophy and a recipe,” Odums said. “You just have to be ready to handle whatever comes your way, and we’ve shown we can do that.”

Academic ineligibility? Better now than later.

Uncertain NCAA future? Been there, done that.

Uncertain practice venue? Patience is a virtue.

Given what the last couple of years have been like at Southern, this represents progress.