Southern University dramatically simplified Roman Banks’ job title Friday.
Banks, who spent nearly two years serving in dual capacities as men’s basketball coach and interim athletic director, was named the university’s full-time athletic director.
“Having served in a dual role as interim athletic director and head men’s basketball coach during a particularly challenging period, coach Banks provided solid leadership and gained the respect and support of his colleagues, student-athletes, alumni, and stakeholders,” Southern University system president Ray L. Belton said in a statement. “His appointment will ensure a seamless transition to continue moving the department in a positive direction.”
The way Banks sees it, the challenging period is still ongoing, which is why he was the man for the job.
Banks will preside over an athletic department that is one false step shy of significant problems with the NCAA. Southern is in the early phases of a five-year probationary period, the result of an NCAA investigation that was made public in November.
The key word is continuity.
“(Belton) wanted to keep continuity and keep the people working with the NCAA who have been working with the NCAA,” Banks said. “He wanted to keep the person that helped create the new policies to be in place, and it just so happened to be me.
“I’m thankful to Dr. Belton and the board of supervisors to have the confidence to even ask me to take the reigns over Southern University’s athletic department.”
Banks’ promotion elevated Morris Scott from associate head coach of the men’s basketball team to interim head coach. Both men will start their new positions April 1.
Scott found out about the promotion Friday morning.
“My plan is to keep the program going in the same direction it’s going in,” Scott said. “It’s going in a positive direction, and hopefully we can remove the interim tag somewhere down the road. Hopefully I can become the official head coach here at Southern University.”
Banks is looking forward to the opportunity to devote himself full-time to the athletic director position.
The original plan, Banks said, was for him to serve as the interim athletic director for six months after then-athletic director William Broussard was reassigned. But for a number of reasons, the end date for Banks' interim tenure got pushed back again and again.
“It worked for a period of time, but you want both positions to have expertise,” Banks said. “I don’t think you ever want it being (split) over a long-haul period of time if you can help it.
“Whenever you can give something your total concentration and attention, hopefully you can be better at it as well.”
This appointment comes shortly after Banks' son, senior point guard Tre’lun Banks, finished his eligibility with the Jaguars basketball team, a fact Banks said was coincidental.
“I’m lucky, blessed and fortunate to have had that opportunity,” Banks said of coaching his son. “But the opportunity to be the athletic director came after that. Our administration knew it was getting to that point in time to divide both duties up.”
One benefit to his time as interim athletic director is that he has a clear vision for how he wants the Roman Banks era to unfold.
There are three parts to his plan, he said.
First up is to continue to put policies in place to ensure that Southern strictly adheres to NCAA rules.
“We’re on five-year probation,” Banks said. “Basically, we’re being policed by the NCAA over that period of time. My thing is to build up our institutional compliance across the campus to make sure we’re running smoothly.”
The second priority for Southern under Banks is derived from his own experience as a coach.
“I always say you get the job done when you have the right tools, so I want to equip our coaches with the adequate tools they need to be successful in their area of expertise,” Banks said.
Third, Banks said he wants Southern to once again be on the cutting edge.
Banks grew up with Southern. It’s where his father and brother went to school, and it's where he served as assistant coach to Tommy Green.
His personal memory of Southern is one he wants to see again.
“We need to move Southern back into the forefront of being the innovators of our league,” Banks said. “… Southern always had it first, they were innovators. We want to get back the lead in our conference in that area.”
Banks wants to see Southern’s footprint grow, whether that means through expanded radio broadcasts that touch every corner of the state, or an increased focus on the reach of Southern’s social media.
He also wants to see innovation manifested in the athletic infrastructure, allowing Southern to be competitive when recruiting student-athletes.
The last part is a daunting task considering the state of finances in Southern’s athletic department, but it’s on Banks’ agenda. As he has shown for the better part of the past two years, he’s willing to be patient.
“That’s my vision for Southern University,” Banks said.
Mike Gegenheimer contributed to this report.