Good. Good for Southern. And good for its new interim football coach, Jason Rollins.
The school found itself mixed into a swirl of potentially enormous publicity when the name of New Orleans native and NFL legend Marshall Faulk was tied to Southern’s vacant coaching job. But athletic director Roman Banks and the rest of his search committee decided to promote from within. The job that belonged to Dawson Odums before he left late last month for Norfolk State now belongs to Rollins. At least for a one-season audition.
I have no idea how successful the 46-year old Rollins, a career assistant coach, will be on The Bluff or how long he will have the job. No one can say, though Odums parlayed the same situation when he replaced Stump Mitchell early in the 2012 season into a successful nine-year run with a 63-35 record, a SWAC title and four Western Division championships.
But set that aside for now. In the present, there is something inherently satisfying about seeing a man who has paid his proverbial dues, honed his craft and patiently waited to get his chance finally getting to run his own show.
“It’s been a long journey,” Rollins said Friday at his introductory news conference. “I’ve stepped on every rung of the ladder to get to this point.”
Now he’s at the top, and it’s up to him whether or not he stays there. That’s all anyone can ask. At some point, hasn’t everyone had a job that was an audition for long-term or better gain? Here is Rollins’ long-awaited golden opportunity.
This just feels better — fairer — than going the glamour route and giving the job to Faulk or some other glittery name. There was reportedly mutual interest between the man and the school. That’s understandable. The pull to make a splashy, national hire in the wake of Deion Sanders at Jackson State (let the record show Southern dulled Deion’s neon with a 34-14 demolition job in Jackson on April 3) and Eddie George at Tennessee State had to be enticing.
Timing is everything, the saying goes, and while it was a long time coming for newly hired Southern football coach Jason Rollins, it worked in…
But Southern said no thanks. Instead, it turned its searchlight inward, into a program that is humming along pretty efficiently, and chose to keep the engine going. Banks and Southern decided they did not need a showman. They sought stability. Rollins, and an entire staff that is staying, offers that.
No, national college football writers aren’t going to be lining up outside Rollins’ office door waiting for an audience. I doubt ESPN is planning a 30-for-30 mini-series on him. Don’t look for a painfully poignant piece by Tom Rinaldi, now at Fox, either.
So what? If Rollins and Southern can win the West and leave archrival Grambling weeping like someone who just finished watching a Rinaldi tearjerker, what more do you need?
I don’t know what Sanders’ end game is at Jackson State, where he went a decent 4-3 this spring. But there certainly should be no expectation he is there for the long haul. Most folks think he’s building up his resume in case Mike Norvell falters at Florida State, Sanders’ alma mater.
Rollins and Southern have a much better chance of building a long-term relationship.
The task is daunting. The Odums measuring stick already made things tough, but the super-short offseason because of the just-completed spring schedule ramps up the level of difficulty to an unprecedented level. Monday will mark 124 days until Southern’s Sept. 4 season opener at Troy. And just how many victories does it take to turn the word “interim” into “permanent” anyway?
There will be time to worry about that later. For now, a deserving candidate got the job at Southern, which fortunately realized it doesn’t need to wow anyone to win.