By Mike McCall
Well it has certainly been an eventful 24 hours. From the kickoff of Thursday’s loss to Mississippi Valley State until now, much has happened, and most of it not good.
Friday was a happy or sad day, depending on your perspective. For those fed up with Stump Mitchell’s 6-18 record, not to mention that hard-to-stomach loss on Thursday, seeing him cut loose was a joyous occasion. For his players and some others, it meant seeing a good guy meet an unfortunate but ultimately necessary end.
I hung around the A.W. Mumford Field House for most of the day, and once it became apparent that Mitchell’s hours were numbered, the mood among his players turned somber. They actively avoided the media, with the exception of running back Terence Clayton, who stopped by to say, “Make sure you put this in your newspaper: We want Stump Mitchell here.”
The five team captains hung around together for the longest, departing as a group after they apparently received the news. A few minutes later, Southern called a press conference where athletic director William Broussard addressed the media. The main points are that Mitchell is out (technically he’s reassigned to an unspecified post at the university), and defensive coordinator Dawson Odums will take over as the interim coach. Broussard did not disclose the financials, only saying Mitchell was “exceptionally professional” when he met with him. He added that an official coaching search will begin after this season. Broussard made the recommendation to Chancellor James Llorens, who approved and got the ball rolling.
My full thoughts will be in Saturday’s paper. In short, I think it’s probably the right move long-term, but it does little to fix this season’s issues. For my part, I’m genuinely sad to see Mitchell go, from a personal standpoint. He was very accessible, patient and kind, which is all I can ask for from a coach. The bottom line comes down to wins though, and I doubt “being nice to Mike McCall” ranked high on Broussard’s list of factors when making his decision.
As you might imagine, there will be plenty of coverage in the paper. But here are the quotes I typed out from Broussard’s presser:
Opening statement: “I spoke with head football coach Stump Mitchell late this afternoon and notified him that he will be reassigned to other administrative duties within the athletic department.”
“I would like to personally thank coach Mitchell for his service and his commitment to Southern University athletics and wish him well in all of his future endeavors. I also urge our fans to continue to stand united with the staff and the student-athletes on the Jaguars football team.”
On whether the MVSU loss was the reason for the move: “We tend to get a lot of response when losing around here, obviously. Last night’s contest was disappointing. I was disappointed for the coaches and players as well, but there were a number of factors considered in the recommendation I made.”
On the rest of this season for the players: “I want them to continue to remain committed to the program, and we’re going to continue to throw the full support of the administration behind them. We’re still committed to their success as students and athletes.”
On the coaching search: “Officially the search will commence at the end of the football season. It will give us some time to evaluate the coaching staff and take a closer look at what kind of progress we make for the rest of the season.”
On whether Odums is auditioning for a full-time job: “I don’t strictly view it that way. Obviously we’ll continue to monitor the progress of the team and the coaching staff that remains behind.”
On why this move was made now rather than the end of the year: “Just to think about the direction of the program, to remember that we’re not forfeiting the 2012 season for future successes. We’re early in the 2012 season, we have a commitment to our student-athletes, and we want — particularly our seniors, those who are ending their careers — to have the very best opportunity to compete. The thrust behind the decision was ensuring that we could do what was possible to ensure our competitive success this year as well as looking to the future of the program.”
On Mitchell’s reaction: “Coach Mitchell is a consummate professional. It was exactly what I would have expected in his reaction. He’s a man of high character and class, and he was exceptionally professional.”