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After A Year, South Alabama Jaguars' Future Still Bright
A year ago there were more questions surrounding South Alabama’s football program than diagrams in the Jaguars’ playbook.
After years questioning whether the school should have a football team, school officials finally gave the project a green light.
The next question then was “Will it work?”
Well, so far, so good.
While it is probably too soon to offer a definitive answer, it’s not a stretch to suggest the year from the Jags’ first spring practice to this year’s spring drills has provided plenty of positive steps and every reason school officials should be optimistic about the future. That opinion is not based on the success of the Jags’ 7-0 record in their first season but on a number of other reasons.
Here are a few:
+ Compare last spring’s roster, which consisted of a few scholarship players but mostly walk-ons and those seeking an opportunity to play college football that probably wouldn’t have existed elsewhere. More to the point, watch this year’s spring game Wednesday night and pay heed to the number of players that get your attention. The difference in the talent level and crispness of play in just one year is noteworthy and obvious.
+ The plan. It would have been easy to band-aid the move into football, to take small steps instead of big, bold ones. The fieldhouse is one example. It would have been easy, even understandable, if school officials had held off on constructing that building or had done so with a pre-fab set-up of some kind. Instead, a 40,000-square foot building that houses a weight room, locker room, equipment room, training room and offices stands at the top of a hill on campus as a statement the sport is being taken seriously.
It also adds some pizzazz to recruiting. You can bet officials from the Sun Belt Conference and in-state rival Troy University, upon seeing the Jags’ fieldhouse when using the practice field while in town for the recent GMAC Bowl, took notice of the building, too.
+ School spirit — and enrollment — is on the rise. In years past, it was more the exception than the rule when a South Alabama student wore a T-shirt or cap or other article of clothing that featured the school’s name, colors or logo. That’s no longer true. The Jags’ first game created the largest gathering of students and alumni at a single event and in the same place in the school’s history. That number should grow with the program.
The pep rally on campus two days before the first game was another moment that brought together students, faculty and alumni in a manner that hadn’t previously occurred. Football not only has helped spark added interest and recognition for the athletic program as a whole, but along with other growth at the school, has helped trigger added interest and recognition for the university as a whole.
The Jags’ talent level from one recruiting class to the next has increased. The confidence of the players and those who follow the team has increased. The support and expectations are greater.
That’s why the future looks bright for South Alabama football.