When he arrived at Southern in the spring of 2011 to coach Stump Mitchell’s defensive line, Dawson Odums couldn’t have imagined becoming the face of the program less than two years later.
Yet there he was Tuesday morning, being introduced as Mitchell’s permanent replacement before a room of media and fans on the Southern University campus.
“I believe that God had a purpose for me,” Odums said. “He’s fulfilling it right now.”
Odums served as Southern’s interim head coach this past fall after Mitchell was fired two games into a 4-7 season. He had to wait out a three-week coaching search before learning he’d have the job full time.
After narrowing the search to Odums, Nevada assistant James Spady and Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins, Southern Athletic Director William Broussard recommended Odums to the SU System Board of Supervisors late last week.
Bethune announced Thursday it had agreed with Jenkins on a contract extension.
“Throughout the process, which was a national search and was transparent and robust in nature, we assembled a selection committee that looked for a number of different factors,” Broussard said. “At every level of the application process all the way down to the final interview, (Odums) showed quite clearly that he had all the necessary attributes to be successful.”
Broussard said Odums will receive a base salary of $140,000, plus $23,200 in guaranteed incentives. A list of non-guaranteed incentives (such as winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship) could add as much as $72,500 to Odums’ salary. The contract is for two years with a mutual option for a third.
The Board of Supervisors must approve Odums’ contract at their next meeting in January.
Rather than negotiate the contract of the coach and his assistants separately, Broussard said Southern started the search with an “envelope budget” of $625,000 to pay the entire coaching staff.
That leaves Odums about $485,000 to pay his assistants.
Broussard said the two-year contract is commensurate with those offered to Southern baseball coach Roger Cador, men’s basketball coach Roman Banks and women’s basketball coach Sandy Pugh in recent years.
He said Southern’s recent financial woes make it hard for the school to offer longer-term contracts.
“That’s not a measurement of coach Odums,” Broussard said. “Any coach we would have hired would have been offered a two-year contract.”
Odums arrives as a Division I head coach after spending most of his 16-year coaching career as a defensive assistant.
The native of Shelby, N.C., served as the defensive coordinator at Clark Atlanta from 2002-04 before spending one season as the Division II school’s interim head coach. From there, he worked as an assistant at Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina A&T, then took the job at Southern in 2011 as defensive line coach.
After one season coaching the defensive line, Odums was promoted to defensive coordinator.
Then came the firing of Mitchell in mid-September.
Odums sparked the Jaguars to consecutive victories over Jackson State and Florida A&M, but Southern won only once more before beating rival Grambling to finish the season.
Three of the five losses under Odums came by a five combined points.
“Being able to observe him this season suggested to me quite powerfully that he was the right person for the job,” Broussard said.
The move to go with Odums should help create stability for a veteran Southern team set to return SWAC passing leader Dray Joseph and several other key starters. Of the eight assistant coaches who finished the year with the Jaguars, Odums said “about five of those guys” will be back next season.
Broussard and Odums said they want to get Southern football back on track by recruiting the state of Louisiana.
Odums said he and his assistants had visited more than 200 high schools across the state in the past two weeks. He said the program’s primary recruiting base will be “within a tank of gas” of Baton Rouge.
By recruiting locally, Odums said the Jaguars cannot only win championships, but also build interest in the community and boost their sagging attendance figures.
“We’re about to go on a journey that’s going to take all of us,” Odums said. “This is our football program — not mine. We’re going to do this together. We want everybody to be a part of this journey.”