Recruits pile onto The Bluff for Southern’s very own Junior Day

Yes, it was yet another super-strong weekend for the Southern baseball team. In thumping Jackson State twice to sweep their two-game series, the Jaguars extended their winning streak to 13 games and further established themselves as the probable favorite at the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament — which, of course, happens right at Lee-Hines Field.

But they weren’t the only group of Jaguars to have a productive weekend.

The football coaches — remember them? — had quite a little event on campus, as well.

The staff dreamed up, and executed, Southern’s first major Junior Day on Saturday afternoon, hosting area prospects who are currently high school juniors — guys who are only a few months away from their senior year, when the recruiting race truly gets hot.

The idea was born mostly out of necessity. In 2011, Southern signed no recruits from the Baton Rouge area, and only a handful from New Orleans. This year, the Jaguars grabbed a few recruits from Louisiana, but dove heavily into Florida for most of their signees.

Stump Mitchell and quarterbacks coach Chad Germany — a Baton Rouge native and former Capitol coach — did their best to reconnect with Louisiana schools with Junior Day.

Saturday, a host of players and parents were seen milling around the A.W. Mumford Field House.

This is not a complete list, but these guys were among them:

Donald Cage, WR, Redemptorist
Carlos Henderson, ATH, McDonogh 35
Tristan Cooper, WR, University High/Tampa (Fla.) Plant
Hakeem Deggs, DB, Plaquemine
Brandon Fields, WR, St. Michael the Archangel
Reggie Smith, OL, Ouachita Parish
Kenneth Santa Maria, OL, McDonogh 35
Jermaine Antoine, ATH, Loreauville
Bryan Walker, ATH, Sulphur
Jeremiah Guillory, OL, Hamilton Christian
Justin Kelley, RB/LB, Redemptorist
Larry Clark, WR, Scotlandville
Tanzel Smart, DL, Scotlandville
Quint Chaney, OL, Sumter Central
Donovan McCray, OL/DL, McKinley
Chris Weatherspoon, DB, Natchez (Miss.)
Dondre Dobbins, DB, Scotlandville
Donovan Logan, DL, Trinity Episcopal
Larry Cage, LB, Zachary
Chris Taylor, OL, Zachary
Dave White, DB, McKinley
Jarrell Rogers, DB, Episcopal
Leotis Washington, WR, Sumter Central
Josh Rogers, DB, Broadmoor
Brenton Terrance, ATH, Woodlawn
Miquel James, ATH, Jewel Sumner
Terence Blevins, DB, Sheffield
Murphy Nash, P, Southern Lab

How much of a difference did Junior Day make?

How many Louisiana players might consider Southern now, rather than bailing for an out-of-state program or a nearby rival? Who knows?

No known commitments were made, but of course, it’s very, very early on the recruiting calendar — especially on the Southwestern Athletic Conference level.

But for Southern, an event like this surely didn’t hurt.

Relief on the way for SU?

The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors approved a proposal Thursday to give “low-resource institutions” more time to comply with tougher academic requirements — a move that may wiped the slate clean for Southern, allowing its men’s basketball and football teams to avoid another postseason ban.

According to the new measure, low-resource institutions — many of them historically black colleges, including Southern — won’t have to hit the new four-year benchmark score of 930 on the Academic Progress Rate until 2016-17, one year later than all other schools.

And though the two-year averages will be waived for the low-resource schools, all institutions must maintain a four-year average of 900 to be eligible for championship events each of the next two seasons.

Athletic Director William Broussard said that although Southern had not received notification from the NCAA on Thursday, he believes the SU men’s basketball team — which served a postseason ban this year because of its substandard APR score — would essentially be clear from facing similar penalties next year.

“That’s my understanding of it,” Broussard said. “We’ve not received any direct contact from the NCAA to verify that. The initial memo that received from them (before Thursday’s vote) indicated that the situation was as such — that essentially, the slate would be wiped clean.”

Broussard said he isn’t sure if the SU football team has a chance at a clean slate.

The football team had a multiyear score of 899 last season — one point shy of the NCAA’s original benchmark for avoiding severe penalties.

“It’s a possibility. … As I said, we haven’t received any official notification,” Broussard said. “But we’re hopeful that it would apply to both (teams).”

The SU men’s basketball team had a multiyear score of 852 last season, leading to the postseason ban — as well as a reduction in practice time and the subtraction of two scholarships.

The team had a perfect 1,000 score during the fall semester under first-year coach Roman Banks, and expects to have another high score at the end of the spring semester.

Attempts to reach NCAA spokespersons were unsuccessful Thursday.

In a statement issued Thursday, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the governing body had an “obligation” to help low-resource schools make a successful transition toward meeting the tougher APR requirements.

Now, low-resource schools must maintain a four-year mark of 900 each of the next two seasons.

The cutline increases to 910 in 2014-15, 920 in 2015-16 and 930 in 2016-17. Two-year averages would not matter. They also will be required to submit a “meaningful APR improvement plan.”

Low-resource schools are defined by the NCAA as those ranked in the bottom 15 percentile, based on the combined average of institutional spending per student, athletic expenses per student-athlete and the average Pell Grant per student. Schools from the Football Bowl Subdivision cannot make the list.

The APR is calculated by adding the number of points accrued each semester by scholarship athletes on each team. The athlete receives one point per semester for staying in school and another point each semester for remaining eligible.

“It’s important to look at a variety of options and be as deliberative as we can to ensure our actions facilitate success, not limit it,” Emmert said in the statement.

A week-by-week look at SU’s football schedule

Spring football is long gone. Stump Mitchell is still here. What’s left? Only baseball season, followed by a long, warm and — hey, let’s be honest — flat-out boring summer.

Thankfully, we’ve got a little something to break down. Southern has finalized dates and kickoff times for football season (except, of course, for the opener at New Mexico, which is out of SU’s hands), and that gives us all an excuse to scan the menu.

Mitchell, of course, is living in Make-Or-Break Land this season. There’s not much sense in belaboring the oft-reported facts, but here’s the nutshell: In two seasons, Mitchell owns a 6-16 record, and now, he enters the third and final guaranteed year of his contract.

Make-Or-Break Land? You bet. Mitchell himself has said he needs to win big in 2012.

Here lies his path to success (or failure), along with some noteworthy nuggets:

Sept. 1: at New Mexico (University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.), TBA
This is Bob Davie’s debut with the Lobos. Worth noting: New Mexico lost at home to FCS opponent Sam Houston State last season. Probably won’t happen again, but who knows?

Sept. 13: Mississippi Valley State (A.W. Mumford Stadium), 6 p.m.
Southern has confirmed that this will be Thursday night game on one of the ESPN platforms. The Jaguars’ only other Thursday game was in 2009 against Prairie View — Pete Richardson’s home finale.

Sept. 22: at Jackson State (Veterans Memorial, Jackson, Miss.), 4 p.m.
One of the best atmospheres in black college football. The 2010 game in Jackson was a 49-45 stunner, one of the most exiting in SWAC history. By the way, JSU has won three straight in this series.

Sept. 29 vs. Florida A&M (Georgia Dome, Atlanta), 2:30 p.m.
This, of course, is one of SU’s oldest most heated rivalries. And boy did the Jaguars flub last year’s meeting. Feel free to cringe as you recall how SU blew a 16-point lead and lost, 38-33. Yikes.

Oct. 6: at Alcorn State (Casem-Spinks Stadium, Lorman, Miss.), 2 p.m.
The Country Classic. This is the Jaguars’ first game in Lorman since Alcorn altered the stadium’s name to honor Marino Casem. Also … the Braves still don’t have a replacement for Melvin Spears.

Oct. 13: Texas Southern (homecoming), 5:30 p.m.
Two eye-openers here: 1) This will be Southern’s first Saturday home game. It has to be the latest in school history. 2) TSU has won three straight in this series. For different reasons, all three were SU stinkers.

Oct. 20: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (A.W. Mumford Stadium), 6 p.m.
Boy, oh, boy. Anyone remember last year’s game? The thrilling finish … the blocked extra-point attempt … SU’s one-point loss … the massive brawl … pepper spray … suspensions … ah, memories.

Oct. 27: vs. Prairie View (Independence Stadium, Shreveport), 4 p.m.
This is a designated home game for Prairie View. The teams played in Shreveport in ’07, when the Panthers won, 30-16. Another eye-opener: SU has lost five of the last six in this series. Say what?

Nov. 3: at Alabama A&M (Louis Crews Stadium, Huntsville, Ala.), 1 p.m.
Southern’s past two games against A&M were very, very different. The Bulldogs won at home in a romp in 2010. The Jaguars ambushed A&M, 21-3, last season. A&M went on to win the SWAC East.

Nov. 10: Alabama State (A.W. Mumford Stadium), 6 p.m.
Last year, when the Jaguars mounted a game-winning touchdown drive in the last minute at ASU, Mitchell had his first signature victory at Southern — and seemingly, the team had momentum going into the Bayou Classic. Whoops!

Nov. 24: vs. Grambling (Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans), 1:30 p.m.
If Stump Mitchell wins his first 10 games this season, but then loses the Bayou Classic, he might hold on to his job. Key word: might. SU has dropped four straight to Grambling, and here’s a little newsflash: To the Jaguar Nation, that goes over about as well as a right hook to the jaw.

Maybe worse.

With Cooper-Dyke at TSU, women’s basketball landscape gets a little rougher

Friday afternoon, the Cynthia Cooper-Dyke era will officially begin at Texas Southern.
As such, the women’s basketball landscape in the Southwestern Athletic Conference is about to get a whole lot rougher.

TSU has called a news conference Friday to introduce Cooper-Dyke as its new coach, giving her a chance to return home to Texas and turn the Lady Tigers into a winner.

You remember Cooper-Dyke, don’t you? Of course you do.

The former WNBA star spent five years turning Prairie View into one of the two powerhouse programs within the Southwestern Athletic Conference (the other, of course, is Southern).

The Lady Panthers went 86-72 overall under Cooper-Dyke, winning three straight regular-season championships and two SWAC tournament championships (2006-07, 2008-09).

Cooper-Dyke resigned in 2010 to take over at UNC-Wilmington, which reached the WNIT in back-to-back seasons on her watch.

Prairie View, meanwhile, kept on rolling. The school promoted Cooper-Dyke’s former assistant, Toyelle Wilson. Since then, the Lady Panthers haven’t dropped off a bit. At 29, Wilson led the team to an upset over Southern in the SWAC championship game last season. Last month, Prairie View won the tournament again, upending Mississippi Valley State.

Assuming that Cooper-Dyke turns TSU into a powerful program — there’s no reason to think otherwise — that makes for three super-tough teams: Texas Southern, Prairie View and Southern. And by the way, other teams like Mississippi Valley and Grambling could be on the way up, as well.

Valley won its first regular-season championship this season under longtime coach Nate Kilbert. And although Donnita Rogers was reassigned, Grambling signed a strong recruiting class and has one of the best facilities in the conference.

Translation: Sandy Pugh’s job could be a little tougher now.

The good news is, she’s back to coaching full-time.

Sign ‘em up: Roman Banks brings aboard four new players

Roman Banks was a little worried.

Fresh from a sparkling first season with the Southern men’s basketball team, Banks spent the early part of this offseason doing two things: accepting awards and recruiting players.

Last week, Banks was named Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, thanks to the 13-win turnaround he engineered in his first year as the Jaguars’ coach. Banks knew, however, that he desperately needs a new crop of players next year — to replace seniors Quinton Doggett and Fred Coleman, and to fortify an already thin roster.

Wednesday night, when the spring signing period began, Banks hadn’t heard from most of his commitments, leading to a few tense moments.

By Friday night, however, four players had signed and faxed their national letters of intent. And the coach was happy. Banks said he got most of what he needed, including two scoring guards (Yondarius Johnson, of Plain Dealing; and Devonse Reed, of Dallas), a point guard (Chris Hyder, of Dallas) and a post player (Damian Goodwin, of suburban Atlanta).

“But I think all these guys can contribute right away,” Banks said, “and that’s what we need.”

Devonse Reed:
Reed, a 6-foot-4 guard from Wilmer Hutchins High School, was named Texas Class 3A player of the year after averaging 24.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. His team reached the 3A state semifinals this season.

Reed drew praise from opposing coaches for his ability to score on the perimeter and by posting up smaller guards.

“He’ll have to concentrate a little more on the defensive end. But it wouldn’t surprise me if this kid, as a freshman, can come in and make a difference,” Banks said. “He’ll come in and play some minutes behind Derick Beltran, and (Reed) can get to the rim.”

Beltran, the team’s leading scorer, will be a senior next season.

Chris Hyder:
Hyder, a 5-foot-10 point guard, helped lead South Oak Cliff High School to the Texas Class 4A state semifinals as a senior, averaging 11.0 points and 8.0 assists per game.

He was named the District 11-4A MVP.

“He’s definitely a playmaking guard. Very smart,” Banks said. “He’ll be able to adapt and run our offense very well. I don’t want to overstate myself, but he definitely reminds you of an Avery Johnson, making great passes and controlling the game.”

Signing a point guard was a must for Southern. Jameel Grace, who will be a senior, was the team’s only point guard on scholarship.

Yondarius Johnson:
If Johnson’s name sounds familiar, it should. The 6-foot-4 guard already played one season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, for archrival Grambling (where current SU assistant Morris Scott was on staff at the time). Johnson averaged 5.1 points and 16.3 minutes at Grambling in 2010-11, shooting 35 percent from 3-point range. He left the school and played last season at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College.

“He can create his own shot. He’s a type of guy that, at the end of the shot clock, can break a defense down,” Banks said. “He can defend, he can find the rim, and he’s very competitive.”

Damian Goodwin:
Goodwin, a 6-foot-7 small forward and power forward, helped Columbia High School of Decatur, Ga., to its third consecutive Georgia Class 3A state title. Though he averaged fewer than 10 points, Goodwin had 10 rebounds in the state championship game.

“Very long and athletic,” Banks said of Goodwin. “He can step out and make 15-foot shots. I think that athletically, he is ready to contribute. He has a good knowledge of the game. He’ll have to get a little stronger — but his strength, and him adjusting speed of the game, will define his role as it relates to this year.”

Southern also had to have a post player in this year’s class. The team’s only scoring and rebounding threat last season was Doggett, who completed his eligibility.

Banks said he hopes to add at least one more player to the class before the signing period ends May 16.

Golf scramble set for April 28

“A Nation of Dominance,” a booster club in its third year supporting Southern athletics, will hold its annual golf scramble April 28 at Beaver Creek Golf Course in Zachary.

Check-in and registration begins at 6:30 p.m., and the event begins with an 8 a.m. shotgun start.

For information, call Donald Shelmire at (225) 226-2836, Muriel Hall at (225) 202-5745, Chuckie Wells at (225) 603-4261, or “Big” Willie Hughes at (225) 978-9645.

Worth repeating: William Broussard

William Broussard used to keep his hair short.

But in the past 12 months, he made a change. Lately, haircuts have become increasingly rare.

Broussard, who officially started as Southern’s athletic director Monday, explains it this way: Most grown men go into the barber shop for a haircut, then stick around for a story or two. Before they know it, they’ve blown an entire afternoon in the same chair.

And frankly, Broussard doesn’t have that kind of time.

A man who went from walk-on center to All-American; who earned his doctorate from Arizona, then broke fund-raising records as an athletic administrator at Northwestern State (while serving as assistant journalism professor); and now comes to Southern at 33 years old, Broussard is known for somehow squeezing 30 hours into 24-hour days.

He inherits an athletic department in need of a super-duper multi-tasker. Among many items on the menu: Southern has a site visit with the NCAA next week regarding certification, and the men’s basketball team is waiting to hear if it will be eligible for postseason play next year.

And the football team is coming off a 6-16 record in two years under Stump Mitchell. Season-ticket sales are down, and fan morale is low.

Other than that, it’s all rainbows and unicorns at SU.

Broussard discussed those matters and others Monday during his introductory press conference. Here are pieces of his question-and-answer session with The Advocate.

You (previously) mentioned what it took for you to gain weight for college football. Can you re-tell that story for us?
“I finished playing high school ball at about 235 pounds, and I was very interested in trying to play offensive line at the college level, but not heavy enough to do it. So I got recruited by several Division III schools, which are non-scholarship. The academic aid I would’ve received would’ve been considerable, but still not enough. So I got accepted to the Louisiana Scholars College at Northwestern State University, and I got a full academic scholarship and decided to walk on.”

“I spent that summer, up every morning, eating a half-dozen eggs six, seven times a day, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“I would get up at 4:30 in the morning, have a protein shake and a couple of eggs. Then I’d go back to sleep, then wake up and eat breakfast. I mean, the dietary side of it was every bit as arduous for me as lifting weights and getting in condition.

“But I got up to about 255 pounds, going into my freshman year. So, to put on 20 pounds, naturally, in about four or 4½ months’ time, I was hitting it. But even throughout college, I played at about 260, 265 pounds. It was very difficult to maintain. I was on a 7,000-calorie-a-day diet, eating all day and very regimented — along with the rigor of being in an honors college. It was pretty rigorous.”

Your parents were teachers, correct?
“Yes. High school. My dad started out teaching and coaching, and my mom was a high school counselor. Then, they worked their way up. Dad eventually became an assistant principal. Mom went to the central office in Acadia Parish, and my dad joined her shortly thereafter. My mom was testing for the parish, sort of the supervisor for all the counselors, and my dad was superintendent for child welfare and attendance.”

Are they still with us?
“No. Dad passed away in ’99, and Mom passed away shortly thereafter, in 2001. I was 20 when Dad died, and I had just turned 22 when my mom died. … It all happened so quickly. I mean, we were just sort of tying up all the loose ends from Dad dying and getting all that squared away, and my mom moved to Biloxi, where my sister was a news anchor at the time. We had gotten her moved for maybe six months. My wife and I got married. Then three months after my wife and I got married. …

“It happened so, so fast. Cancer. Both of them.”

Wow. … In regards to football and the APR. I want to make sure I’m crystal-clear about that. Are they out of the woods? As you understand it, they’ll be eligible to play in the championship game?
“I’d have to look into that one. Basketball, we’re hoping to get a ruling from the NCAA that would allow us to get into the postseason.

“Actually, the NCAA is going to look at a special designation with what they call low-resource institutions, that would take those previously assigned penalties, wipe them clear, and then look at this thing looking forward.

“Nothing is certain yet, but we may have an opportunity with men’s basketball to get those penalties basically removed.”

If the NCAA shoots you down, do you know where men’s basketball would stand with that?
“They’re in the middle of a three-year probation. They just completed the first year of it. Otherwise, they’ll be banned from the postseason two more years.”

“I feel pretty good. Generally, the NCAA would not send out that notice unless they felt pretty good about it. The (NCAA) wouldn’t work to actually go through and amend the legislation, and reproach some of those previous penalties, unless they felt like it was going to happen. So we feel pretty confident about that.”

Southern was certified with conditions last year, and you’re trying to get re-certified, obviously. What must you do?
“It’s one condition, and we’ve got to focus on gender equity. That’s a tough one. Any mid-major institution that’s a low-resource institution, such as we are that has football — it’s going to be a challenge with gender equity. You can’t throw all your effort into ticket sales for football, then ignore your softball team and volleyball team. It’s got to be balanced. So the good and the bad of the NCAA recertification, every seven to 10 years, is that it’s an arduous task. But it’s good to have that reminder built in, because if you did it every 20 years, you have 20 years of imbalance. Five to seven years of imbalance can be remedied in a year or two.”

As it relates to Title IX, isn’t there any one of three prongs you can use to satisfy it?
“That’s only for Title IX, but yes. Gender equity is a larger umbrella. It’s not just Title IX. They look at some other factors. But with Title IX, yes, there are three prongs.”

Regarding gender equity, what must to do to get straightened out, so to speak?
“Of course, the first prong they’re looking at is proportionality, in terms of student body. Most institutions of higher education are about 55-45, with more women, in higher ed. So that’s an unattainable standard for every Division I. The second prong would be proportionality with regard to scholarship allotments or resource allotments. Again, it’s the same thing: When you have football, there’s going to be an imbalance. So virtually every mid-major institution, like us, is looking at the third prong, which is either expanding sport opportunities for women, responding to requests to add sports that you have a sort of buildup for, or a track record of making things equitable. So if you have multiyear contracts for men’s sport coaches, you do it for women. If you have program cars or dealer cars, you do it for women. That’s the area where we’re going to make our focus, because that’s the most attainable of the three standards.”

In other words, women’s coaches — maybe you look at them getting multiyear contracts?
“Right. And looking into facilities, to see what improvements we can make there. As we, through attrition, lose coaches, focusing more on hiring more female coaches to fill those positions. I mentioned (strength and conditioning) coach (Corliss) Fingers because I’m thrilled about her hire. I mean, that is incredibly unique. We have one of only a few female head strength and conditioning coaches in the country, and her pedigree is just amazing. I mean to have her undergraduate (degree) from UNC, experience as a track athlete there, and to go to Maryland from there, that’s incredible to get her there. But again, that’s unique. And that’s one of the ways you show a commitment — to go into that pool and identify a position where … it’s an example of a way that you can state that kind of commitment to gender equity.”

As you may or may not know, Southern dropped women’s golf and men’s tennis a couple years ago. Is there any chance that perhaps you need to look into adding a women’s sport to help with the balance?
“Adding sports is very likely going to be a part of what we do to move forward, to demonstrate our commitment to gender equity. I haven’t made a decision on what sports that would be. But any sport could be an addition. Women’s golf could certainly be something that we look back to adding. It’s got to be something that we can do affordably. It’s got to be something to where, there is a tradition here. I think that could be helpful. But having a sport where we could recruit here in-state, obviously, is important, as well. There’s a lot of factors to consider. Certainly, women’s golf would be one of the sports we would consider.”