2020-21 Bayou Classic Southern vs. Grambling

Southern coach Dawson Odums encourages his team prior to their 49-7 win Saturday over the Grambling Tigers in the 47th annual Bayou Classic was played at Independence Stadium at Shreveport, La., April 17, 2021. Photo by TOM MORRIS

Dawson Odums is leaving Southern to become the head football coach at Norfolk State, the school announced Tuesday evening. 

Odums spent nine seasons leading the Jaguars, amassing a 63-35 overall record, including a 53-17 mark against Southwestern Athletic Conference opponents, and making four trips to the conference championship game, including winning the title in 2013. 

The Jaguars were 5-1 in this spring's shortened season, finishing on a four-game win streak and with a 49-7 dismantling of rival Grambling in the Bayou Classic on Saturday in Shreveport. Southern was 6-3 in Bayou Classic games under Odums.

Odums, a North Carolina native, takes over the Virginia-based football program for Latrell Scott, who stepped down in March. In five seasons under Scott, the Spartans were 21-35. They did not play in the fall or this spring because of the pandemic.

According to footballscoop.com, Odums is expected to receive a six-year deal that will pay him $225,000 per year at Norfolk State. 

Odums was given a one-year extension by Southern in January to run his contract with the school through 2022, but that deal did not include a raise. Odums was making $210,000 per year at Southern.

Southern said in a statement that a national search for Odums' replacement would begin immediately. 

"On behalf of the Jaguar Nation, I want to express my sincerest appreciation and thank you to coach Dawson Odums for all his contributions to Southern University," athletic director Roman Banks said in the statement. "His tenure as the head football coach will be remembered for his unwavering commitment to our student-athletes not only on the football field, but in the classroom as well. We appreciate him for developing young people and bringing us back to the top of the SWAC with our championship runs. While we are certainly disappointed to see Dawson and his family leave our program, we are excited for their new endeavors."

Southern president-chancellor Ray Benton echoed Banks' sentiment.

"I have had the pleasure of serving our students and community alongside coach Dawson Odums for five of his nine phenomenal seasons here at Southern University," Belton said in a statement. "His dedication to seeing our student-athletes win on and off the field will impact them for years to come. Southern University is losing a great leader, motivator and role model with his departure. Coach Odums will always be a valued and respected member of our Jaguar Nation. We wish him and his family all the best on the next segment of their journey."

Odums was elevated from defensive coordinator to interim head coach at Southern during the 2012 season, replacing Stump Mitchell, who was 6-18 in three years with the Jaguars.

After leading Southern to a 4-5 record during his interim stint, Odums was selected from a pool of six semifinalists to be Southern's next head coach.

The success of the Jaguars program turned around instantly with Odums at the helm.

The Jaguars were 9-4 overall and 7-2 in the SWAC in his first full season. The Jaguars then beat Jackson State in the SWAC championship, the first SWAC championship for the program since 2003. 

Since then, Southern has not had a losing season, and has only lost more than one conference game in a season once.

"He’s good for the game. He’s good for the HBCU family. Could coach his butt off — proved that against us," Jackson State coach Deion Sanders said Tuesday when hearing the news of Odums' departure. Southern beat Jackson 34-14 on April 3.

"That is a loss to the conference."