Saturday is a joyous day on the Bluff as the Southern football team opens up its four-game home schedule against the Edward Waters College Tigers at 6 p.m. in A.W. Mumford Stadium.
It’s the first day of tailgating season. It’s a night game, so Jaguar fans have a chance to trickle in all day and build to a crescendo at kickoff.
Likely, too, is that the Jaguars will be celebrating their first victory of 2019 against an NAIA team that went 4-7 last season and 0-10 the year before that. Southern’s offense has been poised to explode, and the Jaguars are one of the favorites to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference title.
And it all comes with a title, the second annual Pete Richardson Classic, honoring the second-winningest coach in school history. Richardson was around to help promote the game and will be part of the festivities throughout the weekend.
“It’s always exciting time when we can get coach Richardson back here,” Southern athletic Roman Banks said. “He worked with a lot of assistant coaches, took time out to have conversations with us to lead us on that right path.”
Richardson returned the Southern program to the glory days of the man after whom the stadium is named. From 1993-2009, he compiled a 134-62, second only to Mumford’s 180-60-13. He won four HBCU national titles and five SWAC championships, while Mumford won five and 11, respectively.
“I used to come to the games when he was coaching,” Southern wide receiver Hunter Register said. “My dad graduated from here and is a big Southern fan. I know how important he is to the school. He’s won a lot of games here and changed the culture.”
It’s near impossible to overstate Richardson's impact on the program during his 17 years.
“I call him periodically just to say hey to him because I understand the people have come before me and allow me to be the head coach at Southern have done a fantastic job,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “For the time he was here, this program was one of the best and well known. That comes from his hard work and his staff.
“There’s no greater man the classic should be named after. He earned it with the time he gave. This isn’t something you just give. I’m happy to be following in his footsteps and trying to duplicate the same kind of success.”
Odums has a way to go. He’s a distant third in career victories with 50, although he does have one SWAC title to his credit. Odums said Richardson was one of the first people he called when he was hired and that his advice helped Odums acclimate to nuances of coaching at Southern.
“He helped me get off to a great start,” Odums said.
Richardson, living in retirement in Baton Rouge, is lending a hand to help promote the game.
“It’s a tremendous honor, but a lot of individuals were a great part of that,” Richardson said. “When I coached Winston-Salem and we played Southern in Shreveport, that’s when I knew they had a good program. A year later coach (Marino) Casem gave me a call.
“This can evolve and hopefully have great attendance. A lot of individuals, especially from (Winston-Salem) are coming down also. A lot of my friends. Hopefully we can have a great game and great result.”
Banks is banking on that, and so he’s enlisted Richardson as a drawing card to help promote the game to improve Southern’s home attendance. Banks would like to add a fifth game to the home schedule annually but said he can’t do it unless the average attendance rises above 20,000 per game.
“We’re working to have him become more a part of this program,” Banks said.
Richardson could be quite helpful with his reputation and contacts, especially the long list of former Jaguars players who competed for him. He’s also a heavy name to drop among the Southern alumni groups scattered across the nation.
“A lot of former players are doing well,” he said. “They developed a trust in me. The ones in position to help out can give back. You don’t have to give a million dollars, just give a little something back. I’ll also try to get better communication with some of the alumni groups across, the nation. We have one in Chicago, we have some in California.”
Richardson said he likes the way the program is being run by Banks and Odums and the rest of the athletic department.
“The program is in great hands,” he said. “They are competitive year in and year out.
“I knew (Odums) would do an outstanding job. I respect him a great deal; his kids play hard. Good job of player development once they get their hands on them. That’s the name of the game.”