BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Southern University has certainly been criticized and maligned over the years for many different reasons and to be honest, sometimes it's been warranted. But in the case of Roman Banks, it's certainly time to give the school credit where credit is due.
Without a doubt, it's one of the best decisions the Jaguars have made in a decade or longer. The numbers certainly don't lie. In the four years before Banks was hired, Southern tallied a putrid overall record of 28-93. That equates to an abysmal winning percentage of 23.1 percent.
Rob Spivery, for whatever reason, did not work on "The Bluff." After a tremendous run at Alabama State (He was actually named "SWAC Coach of the Decade" for the period of 2000-2010), Spivery had a great debut at Southern in 2006. The Jaguars reached the NCAA Tournament and actually gave Duke some issues in the opening round. But it was all downhill after that, with each passing team more hideous than the previous. Spivery's last Southern team finished a miserable 4-26 overall and 3-15 in the SWAC. Students could've used the FG Clark Center as a study hall. There was no noise in that place.
In two years, Banks amazingly has an overall record 40-23. Quite the accomplishment, considering how many "guarantee games" the Jags play early in the year. And, his conference mark is a sparkling 28-8, not counting the two SWAC squads this year's team knocked off on its way to the league tournament title. Along with that 45-44 heart-stopper against Prairie View A&M Saturday comes the SWAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and a matchup against No. 1 seed Gonzaga Thursday in Salt Lake City, UT. Even though it's a No. 16 seed, Banks' squad has avoided the back-handed compliment of the tournament's "play-in" game, which is another fine accomplishment for the blue and gold.
Energy is beginning to build in "The Minidome" as well, as 4,800 fans attended a 59-31 shellacking of arch-rival Grambling in early February. That crowd was boosted largely because of a court dedication to legendary Jaguar Avery Johnson, who was on hand for the ceremony. Still, 2,700 showed two days later for a Monday night beat-down of Jackson State. That's not bad for a program whose attendance seemed to hover in the hundreds on a consistent basis.
Attendance should continue to grow and the Jaguar Nation can fill that building again. But, Southern has some pressing business on the horizon. Roman Banks has just one year remaining on his initial three-year deal, which pays him roughly $115,000 annually. The vultures, from what I've been told, are already circling to land Banks for other jobs. If there's a man in this country who's done a better job than this guy, I'd like to meet him.
Southern's budget is beyond tight and times are still rough. But, athletic director William Broussard III must do everything in his power to make sure Banks doesn't get away. There's no doubt he's one of college basketball's top rising stars.
Southern, clearly got it right on this one. Hopefully, the Jags can keep right.