For Grambling State coach Broderick Fobbs, coaching in the Bayou Classic means facing Dawson Odums.
In each of Fobbs’ previous five meetings with Southern in the annual clash in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Odums has been on the other sideline. The two coaches talk about it almost like a family reunion of Louisiana schools which renews at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“He’s been a friend and become a much closer friend since we’ve been doing this for six years,” said Fobbs, who is 51-16 overall and 3-2 in the Bayou Classic. “He’s the only guy I’ve had to face for six years in the SWAC. Everyone else has had a musical chairs situation.”
While every other coaching job in the Southwestern Athletic Conference has turned over at least once, Odums, who is in his seventh season at Southern, and Fobbs represent the top two deans of SWAC coaching. Both arrived at their respective schools and turned around programs that were failing.
“We share a lot, we talk a lot, we bounce ideas,” Odums said. “His father hired me as a coach. I’ve known the family long before he became Grambling’s coach. I know the principles his family instilled in him.
“When they hired him, you began to see a change at Grambling. For the fifth year these teams are playing for the opportunity to represent the West.”
The two coaches got to know one another through Fobbs’ father, Lee, who was head coach at North Carolina A&T from 2005-08, and hired Odums as an assistant in his final season there. Broderick Fobbs was then an assistant coach at McNeese State and the paths cross during the times coaches gathered at the elder Fobbs’ home.
“He’s been the same guy,” Fobbs said of Odums. “He’s not necessarily a joker but he has some dry humor about him. He’s an exceptional football coach with discipline in his program. That’s why he’s been consistent. Stay the course, believe in what you believe in.
“You could see the discipline then (as an A&T assistant). His players always did things the right way. He was always honest and up front. You always know what you are getting with him.”
Lee Fobbs, a Grambling alumnus, ultimately returned to the school on his son’s staff in 2014 until his retirement in January ended a 47-year career in coaching.
Odums said he gained an appreciation for the family structure he saw in the Fobbs home, which has made it easier to maintain a close professional relationship with a coach from a rival school.
“It was the same type of family I grew up in,” said Odums, who is 57-33 overall and 49-18 in SWAC play. “The principles and values. When you see that you attach to that. His father was great; I loved working for him because he gave me an opportunity. To see who he was as a father, he was going to have sons who were great guys in this profession.
“They have a lot of similarities, that calm demeanor. His dad doesn’t get too angry. He takes his time when he makes decisions. That’s something I learned from him.”