BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For the first time since the inception of the Celebration Bowl, Southern will be eligible to play in it.
The NCAA lifted its postseason ban on Southern, which had prohibited the football team from participating in the Southwestern Athletic Conference's only guaranteed postseason football game. The conference championship game is considered to be part of the regular season.
That said, coach Dawson Odums said not to expect his team to treat the season any differently.
“That opportunity doesn’t present itself if you don’t do what you’re supposed to,” Odums said. “That’s always been the approach. Nothing at the end matters if you don’t go through the beginning and the middle.”
While he hasn’t received official word, Odums said he is assuming it means his team will be able to go through full spring practices as a team in 2018.
Neither of Southern’s two representatives at Southwestern Athletic Conference media day, seniors Austin Howard and Danny Johnson, has gone through spring practice, as Southern has gone three years without it.
“We’ve had so much success without spring ball, that it’ll be spring ball, but it’ll still be skills and drills,” Odums said. “We’re not going to have a spring game or have full pads.
“We’ll be able to be out there; that’s the big difference. I’d probably know who my running back was if we had spring ball. Without having that, you can’t get a good understanding of who those guys are and what they can do.”
Sunday, blazing Sunday
Southern will open its season with South Carolina State on a Sunday in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
Odums and the Jaguars are looking forward to it.
“Nobody’s playing but us,” Odums said. “It’s on TV. Get out of church, put the TV on. There’ll be a little football on. It’ll feel like Sunday. Give the guys a chance to feel what it’s like to play on Sunday, make it feel like they’re in the NFL.”
The game will also be at 1:30 p.m., which Odums and the Jaguars aren’t looking forward to as much.
“It’s going to be so great. It’s going to be smoking hot,” Odums said. “Literally smoking hot.
“You cannot prepare for it. You have to adjust during the game. You can’t practice at that time because it’s too hot.”
Odums said he’ll be keeping a close eye on the forecast the week of the opener, particularly for the temperature Friday and Saturday, because the artificial turf has a tendency to hold heat.
Mitchell working media day
While Southern teammates Austin Howard and Danny Johnson were here being interviewed by media, teammate Jamar Mitchell was among the media.
The senior cornerback has been serving an internship at WAFB since June. He arrived in nearby Hoover on Wednesday for the last two days of Southeastern Conference media days and worked Friday’s event as well.
“I did my first standup,” Mitchell said Thursday. “I’ve been learning how to make connections with the media.”
Because he was working, Mitchell didn’t even know he was a second-team All-SWAC selection (the league released the all-conference team Friday morning) until WAFB sports director Steve Schneider told him.
“I thought he was joking with me,” Mitchell said.
A spring graduate in public relations, Mitchell said he plans to be in graduate school this fall, either in criminal justice or political science.
Bill Elias was an LSU assistant coach under Gerry DiNardo, serving on the same staff with Mike Haywood, who is now the second-year head coach at Texas Southern. Elias, now TSU’s assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach. ... He coached with Haywood at LSU from 1995-97. ... Texas Southern brought fifth-year senior quarterback Jay Christophe to media day. Christophe is a Brusly High School graduate.
Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.