Grambling legend Doug Williams says he didn’t talk numbers in a weekend interview with Southern, but many believe he discussed job responsibilities that go far beyond coaching at GSU’s hated in-state SWAC rival.
Williams met not with the athletics director at Southern, but with Tony Clayton, chairman of the Southern board of supervisors and Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge lawyer and former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives.
That certainly suggests two things:
— There is a serious effort to lure Williams, despite his own efforts to downplay things.
— Perhaps the athletics director job itself is on the table.
Williams, even while acknowleding the emotions swirling around a move to Southern, hasn’t gone into specifics.
“It’s about opportunity,” Williams said of the interview, which has sparked furious debate among fans and alumni from both his alma mater Grambling, and in Baton Rouge.
“You have to pass by some things,” Williams told me. “I’ll always be a Gramblinite, no matter what happens. You’d hope that (GSU alumni) pull for me for 10 games, then let the chips fall where they may when the Bayou Classic rolls around.”
Combining the positions of head football coach and athletics director might help Southern reach the required salary plateau needed to lure Williams, now an NFL executive. (It would also spell an end of the tenure of AD Greg LaFleur, a former LSU tight end who has previous administrative stops at Texas State and Chicago State. LaFleur has been at Southern since 2005.)
But managing an AD’s responsibility in the age of Title IX while walking the sidelines is no easy task, the reason so few attempt the dual role anymore. That makes selecting a football staff all the more critical for Williams — both in terms of assisting in running the program and for setting up a succession plan.
Williams could look to two of Southern’s other main candidates to replace Pete Richardson: Prairie View defensive coordinator Heishma Northern (a former Jaguar, and longtime Williams assistant) and fellow ex-Grambling head coach and Williams assistant Melvin Spears.
Don’t think Spears, offensive coordinator with Williams for six seasons, hasn’t thought about it.
“If Doug comes to Baton Rouge, I’m coming with him,” Spears told me. “It would be very, very exciting, with Doug’s notoriety and the things he’s done. There would be a sense of excitement around the Bayou Classic that would be unbelievable.”
In that scenario, Northern — always a favorite of Williams’ — seems like a head coach-in-waiting, to me.