Despite ending the abbreviated spring season on a four-game winning streak and jumping into the FCS Top 25 poll, Southern will not represent the SWAC in the postseason.
Southern (5-1) wrapped up the 2021 season with a convincing 49-7 win over SWAC West rival Grambling in the Bayou Classic. The Jaguars had entered Saturday ranked No. 21 in the FCS Coaches Poll.
There was an outside shot — if it didn’t win the divisional title — that Southern could grab an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs.
With Arkansas-Pine Bluff clinching a spot in the SWAC Championship Game, it opened the door for the slight possibility.
Those hopes were dashed when the Jaguars were left out of the 16-team field.
Southern head coach Dawson Odums said Monday that he would have left it up to the players and school administrators to decide whether to continue the season because his group had been impacted by a litany of injuries throughout its six-game schedule.
“I don’t think that would have been a decision that I would have made by myself,” he said. “We understand already the strain that was put on the program. I really think I would have left that decision up to the decision-makers and the program to decide whether or not.”
Athletic director Roman Banks indicated that Southern would have embraced the shot to participate in the playoffs, though the league office garnered some influence on whether schools would accept a bid.
Given that the SWAC regular season normally extends into the opening round of the FCS playoffs and the league holding its own conference championship game, securing an automatic or at-large bid already was unlikely.
But no such obstacle existed for Southern this season since all its regular-season games were completed before the FCS playoff field was even decided.
“We would have been excited and proud to go,” Banks told the Advocate.
While Jaguars’ record might have been worthy of consideration in any other year, the program could not overcome, said Odums, not playing enough games or contests against ranked opponents to boost its resume.
“Had we played a couple of more games that vote might have went a different way,” said Odums. “But when you look at it, playing ranked teams and beating ranked teams carry a higher ranking in the poll when it comes to being selected for the playoffs.”
Southern didn’t play any ranked opponents despite being in a division where three of the five teams currently have a combined two losses all year. The Jaguars’ only defeat was by three points to a UAPB team that is ranked No. 24 in the last FCS STATS Poll.
There was thought after the official brackets were released Sunday that Southern should have received a spot over four-loss Missouri State. The Bears, who play in the Missouri Valley Conference, finished with a 5-4 record.
Missouri State went 0-3 in the fall with losses to Oklahoma and then back-to-back setbacks versus Central Arkansas in results that counted toward the spring postseason. After losing to then-No. 6 North Dakota State earlier in the spring, the Bears reeled off a ranked win over then-No. 21 South Dakota before getting a pair of top-10 victories against Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois later in the season.
“I was reading (about) some of the teams, said Odums, “(some) had two ranked wins, three ranked wins, and to me that carries more weight. So with us (the SWAC) having ranked teams (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Alabama A&M and Southern) and those ranked teams not being able to play against each other — then beat them when they were ranked — I think that will carry a lot more weight.”