Terrence Graves had been part of the Southern coaching staff for 193 games for parts of 12 seasons in his 31-year career as an assistant.
On Wednesday, Southern named Graves head coach. It was a “hallelujah” revelation for a man who had dreamed of leading a team.
“From Norfolk, Virginia, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana,” Graves said during the introductory press conference. “Not bad for a little boy dreaming in Park Place, Virginia.”
Graves, who was appointed interim head coach for the Bayou Classic after Eric Dooley was fired just shy of his second full season at Southern, said he was notified on Tuesday that he would be the 21st head coach in program history.
“Remember when I stood up here and said if I get the (permanent) job, ‘hallelujah,’ and if I didn’t, ‘hallelujah’? Well, ‘hallelujah;’ I got the job.”
While wearing a two-piece suit and a SU hat cocked to the side, Graves touted why he thought Southern chose him when it appeared he didn’t fit all the criteria.
“Why Terrence Graves? I’m glad you asked,” he said. “I’m prepared, I’m qualified, I’m certified. I’m destined, and I’m a winner. I’m a builder of champions.”
Athletic director Roman Banks said the search committee interviews various candidates for the job, including some outside HBCU football circles. But Graves was impressive in initial conversations to the point where Banks had to reconsider whether Southern’s next coach was already on campus.
“Something kept bringing us back to him,” Banks said. “He’s a person who can befriend our fan base, is approachable, and still commands a lot of respect.
Graves is tentatively expected to earn $250,000 yearly as a base salary over three years, according to the Southern University Board of Supervisors documents.
Southern finished the 2023 season 6-5, just one game behind Prairie View for the SWAC West championship.
Graves said the Jaguars are “not far away” from competing for championships. He said the process “is not a rebuild. It is a reload.”
“We’re going to cast our nets out nationally and internationally. If there are some on the moon, we’re coming to get them, too,” said Graves.
“Some we will recruit back. The transfer portal is college football today. I tell them if you are going to leave, always have a plan. We’ll assist them in any way we can. You have to recruit the guys on your team and the guys to bring to your team.”
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