Football Returns to Southeastern Louisiana University
by Martha Pool
After more than
a decade without the excitement of head-to-head competition on the gridiron,
Southeastern Louisiana University's football program is making a grand return
in the 2003 season. Because of budget cuts, Southeastern discontinued its
football program following the 1985 season, but, during the summer of 2001,
announced a $5 million Capital Campaign to revive the dormant sport.
In making the dream a reality, Southeastern President Randy Moffett recognizes the efforts of his predecessor, Sally Clausen, now the president of the University of Louisiana System. "Her energy and vision were the backbone of this campaign," he says. "She had the courage to stand by her priorities of first improving the physical plant of this campus. Through her leadership and the support of our legislative delegation, Southeastern is enjoying an overdue construction boom that totals approximately $70 million. Once those priorities were met, she threw her enthusiastic support and considerable persuasive sales skills into the athletics campaign."
According to Moffett, two alumni-Denham Springs attorney Calvin Fayard and an anonymous donor-made initial $1 million gifts.
"No campaign can be successful without substantial lead gifts," says Moffett. "Mr. Fayard believed in our plan, and his and other contributions got us off to a strong start. When we first announced this initiative in 2001, we already had $2.5 million in solid pledges. We successfully obtained another $1 million gift from an anonymous donor, and more than 70 other donors contributed $10,000 or more. Having exceeded our goal, and with more funding still coming in, the Southeastern Lions will be back in Strawberry Stadium-and our students, along with the northshore community, will once again enjoy collegiate football."
Moffett adds that much of the credit for the successful effort must also go to the late former head coaches Stan Galloway and Pat Kenelly, their families, and the members of the Southeastern Football Players Association.
"They would not let the dream of Southeastern football die, and when we were ready to embark on this campaign, they showed their support. They made their own contributions and helped to identify and recruit other contributors."
Under the leadership of head coach Hal Mumme, Southeastern will resume play for the 2003 season, competing as a Division I-AA Independent for two years before joining the Southland Conference in 2005. The conference is made up mostly of Texas and Louisiana teams, including McNeese State in Lake Charles, Northwestern State in Natchitoches and Nicholls State in Thibodaux.
Mumme is a 50-year-old San Antonio, Texas native who most recently coached the University of Kentucky Wildcats. He led the team to back-to-back bowl games in 1998 and 1999, a feat accomplished only twice previously in the 109-year history of the program.
He coached quarterback Tim Couch, the NFL's number one draft pick by the Cleveland Browns in 1999, and in 1998 led Kentucky to a 39-36 victory at LSU for its first road win over a ranked opponent in 21 years.
Mumme, who has collected eight collegiate coaching honors during his career, was twice named the GTE Region II Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association and was named the 1999 South/Southwest Coach of the Year by Football News.
The Lion's defensive coordinator is Woody Widenhofer, one of football's premier strategists. A former defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, Widenhofer was most recently head football coach at Vanderbilt University.
"I view the chance to coach at Southeastern as a unique opportunity," says Widenhofer. "Coach Mumme and I have always wanted to work together, and we finally have that chance. I'm thrilled to be a part of breathing life back into Southeastern's football program and returning Lion football back to Hammond and the northshore region.
"Adding Woody to the staff really gave us a boost," says Mumme. "In my mind he's the best defensive coach around and it's going to be a wonderful opportunity to have someone of his caliber calling the shots on that side of the ball. During my time in the SEC, we faced each other on numerous occasions. His teams were always tough and well prepared. It's great to know he's on our team now."
In building the team, recruiters had to look no further than their own backyard to tap the well of rich talent in the area. The university is committed to recruiting good student athletes who are highly competitive and who want to succeed on the field and in the classroom.
Ninety players started spring practice. An additional
30 have signed, including six junior college transfers, 18 high school
seniors, and two who will be transferring after playing for Vanderbilt-Brett
Beard, DL and Ray Perkins, RB.
Five southshore players will join the squad including Earl Cager, OL and Darren Marquez, DE from St. Augustine in addition to Brennan Harris, LB, Romaliz Mayo, DB and Norman Randall from Karr High School. Hess Crockett, PK and Josh Wilson, WR hail from Baton Rouge.
Other area stand-outs include Marvin Jones from Hammond High School and top pick QB, Seth Babin from St. Amant High School.
2003 schedule will feature six home games and six on the road, with the
season opener at home hosting Arkansas-Monticello on Saturday, August
30 in Strawberry Stadium. Call 1-866-LIONTIX for ticket information.
Copyright 2003, M&L Publishing, all rights reserved.