The status of the new building is still up in the air. The practice fields will be built where the intramural fields are currently located but the relationship of the new building to that is being determined. The decision lies with President Moulton on whether the newly constructed building will be the permanent home of the football facilities or if it will be converted to a custodial building and the football offices moved to the old rec center location, which would be suitably remodeled. This would happen after the new rec center is completed. The conflict is that the old rec center is easily converted to handle all the needs of the football program but would not match the custodial needs of the university as well. Also, the site of the new building next to the practice fields is the preferable location for the football offices while the old rec center would require players to hike or bus across campus to reach the fields. President Moulton is expected to reach a decision within the month. Meanwhile, interior design of the new building continues and the project should go out to bid in May.
As every Jag fan knows, the City of Mobile has stepped up and generously offered the use of Ladd Stadium rent-free for the next five years. The question on the minds of many, though, has been the possibility of an on-campus stadium in the future.
"Certainly there's talk about, but not anything concrete right now," said Coach Jones. "There's been talk of where to put a stadium and that type of thing. Certainly that plan is down the road. What year this would come along, I don't know, but people are discussing it right now. Obviously we really appreciate the City of Mobile offering us Ladd Stadium for these first five years. That has been tremendous for us. I played there and it‘s very special to me of course and having a 40,000 seat stadium like that for a program that is where we are is very fortunate for us."
In an earlier interview Coach Jones expressed interest in having tryouts for potential walk-ons already on campus at South Alabama. Since then, the staff has found that the NCAA doesn't allow for any official tryouts for football, derailing that plan.
"Next fall, when we should have our team a little more organized, we'll have quite a few kids coming in and we'll get them involved in the weight room and conditioning and that type of thing," said Jones.
Those who heard Coach Jones' first press conference will remember that one of the cornerstones of building the program that he proposed was holding a series of camps for young local athletes so that the coaches would have an opportunity to get to know potential future Jag players. The staff has lined up four camps for the coming year that should go a long way to introducing kids in the Mobile area to USA football. The first one will be a skills camp for rising seniors on June 21st at Ladd Stadium. This will be followed by three two-day camps in July - a kid's camp for students in first through eighth grade, a high school camp for all positions, and a team passing camp.
"It's tougher than you think," said Jones. ‘I've got a coach assigned to it that's working on it every day, calling teams. We've got nothing in concrete yet but we've got three, four, five teams that we're talking to and we'll see what happens there. Down the road, we're trying to lock down the Naval Academy for a home-and-away by 2012-2013. Tennessee has called about possibly 2013 or 2014, but right now the first couple of years we're trying to find schools we can play with and have a chance to compete with, especially that first year. At this point we‘re finding that teams that we'll have a chance to beat don‘t really want to play us and then the ones that can beat us want to play us. We‘re trying to find teams that we can compete on an even keel with because that would be a win-win for both teams."
George Mason and Jacksonville, both FCS non-scholarship programs, are likely candidates to fill the first year's schedule. The original plan was to play between four and six games that first year but Coach Jones would like to play as many reasonable opponents as he can get. The problem , besides trying to find teams of roughly equal strength, is that few programs have available dates in their schedules for 2009, since most teams will schedule the majority of their games two or three years in advance.
The original time table for adding assistant coaches was for five to be hired initially and two more to be added in the fall. When Troy's Brian Turner (brother of offensive line coach John Turner) became available this spring, it was too good an opportunity for South Alabama and Coach Jones to ignore.
"It was great," said Jones. "We felt like Brian was a great recruiting coordinator and had done a tremendous job at Troy. I feel real fortunate to get him and we felt like, even though we've got some great recruiters, we needed someone with experience of recruiting in the Southeast and recruiting the type of athletes we're looking for. He knows what it takes to win at Troy. The first couple of years we may not be able to get Troy-type of players, but I think we can. Hopefully we can start out shooting for those kinds of players. It was important for me to really have a cornerstone for our recruiting. We have Coach Koenning who was at the highest level of D1 and coach Craig at D2 and John Turner who was at 1AA, so we have a good mixture, but bringing Brian in got us concentrating right at the level we need to recruit and he's already been real helpful for us in that regard."
There is tremendous interest from local athletes in the Mobile area about walking on at USA for the 2009 season and the staff has begun to speak with those players who have contacted them. In addition to that good news for filling out the 2009 roster, Coach Jones has received permission to give out 15 scholarships after the fall term ends in December that will count as 2008 scholarships. An additional 30 will be given out in February of 2009 which means that the 2009 team could have as many as 45 scholarship players ready to take the field for that first game. Those 15 scholarships will largely be given to transfer students, junior college or four-year, that are able to enroll at USA at that time. Possibly some 2008 high school graduates will also be able to take advantage of this new opportunity.
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