POSTED: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 9:00pm
UPDATED: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 11:30pm
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Roman Banks, from Southern University, has been named the Outstanding College Coach of the Year for the State of Louisiana and Archbishop Rummel’s Jay Roth, has been selected as the Outstanding Prep Coach of the Year for Louisiana. Both coaches will be recognized at the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Selection Committee, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, selects annual award winners in a variety of categories, in addition to selecting each year’s Hall of Fame class and Amateur Athletes of the Month. Overall, 26 individuals and two teams will be honored at the banquet. Additional honorees will be announced over the next two weeks.
Roth directed Rummel to a perfect 14-0 season and the school’s first state football championship in its 49-year history. The Raiders used a 22-point fourth-quarter to come from behind and defeat Barbe in the state Class 5A Championship, 35-14, one week after Barbe scored seven touchdowns in a 49-48 victory against defending, eight-time state champion West Monroe. In 18 seasons at Rummel, Roth, who is an alumnus of the school, has won 10 district championships while reaching the state playoffs 17 times. He was also selected as the New Orleans Metro Coach of the Year for large schools by NOLA.com.
Banks took little time in reestablishing the Southern University men’s basketball program as one of the best in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. After winning only 11 games in the two seasons prior to his arrival, the Jaguars are 40-24 in two seasons with Banks as coach.
On the court, Banks biggest accomplishment came this season when he led the Jags to a 23-10 record and into the NCAA Tournament where Southern came close to pulling off the biggest upset in tournament history. Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, narrowly defeated the 16th-seeded Jaguars, 64-58, in the first round. No 16 seed has ever beaten a top seed.
But Banks’ accomplishments – noteworthy as they are because of what his team did in action – are magnified considering what he and his staff got his squad to do in the classroom.
Banks not only inherited a deficient team on the court but one that was equally poor in the classroom. Southern was banned from the postseason during the 2011-12 season because of its poor Academic Progress Rate. The NCAA began meting out penalties to schools with low APRs the previous school year and Southern was one of those institutions. The Jaguars lost two scholarships and were banned from the postseason.
Southern went 17-14 in 2011-12, Banks’ first season, but couldn’t compete in the postseason because of the APR sanctions.
Two years later, the Southern men’s basketball APR soared to 969 – out of a perfect score of 1,000 – for the academic year.
"We have experienced great success on the court the last couple of years but that comes secondary to the steady progress we have made in the classroom and upholding the academic excellence standard set here at Southern," said Banks. "I am proud that my players are accepting their roles as student-athletes and taking care of business first in the classroom.”
If anyone was prepared for the challenge that faced the Jaguars basketball program, it was Banks. He became an APR expert while at Southeastern Louisiana University as an assistant coach and learned how to navigate a complicated process instituted by the NCAA in hopes of bringing up member school graduation rates.
He knew the primary two things he had to do were to weed out those players who weren’t going to class and taking school seriously and require the rest of the roster to get the academic help it needed.
He and his assistants get up early every school day to make sure the players are going to class. They also attend study halls, not just to be seen but to ask questions about assignments, tests and other school work.
“Coach (Banks) lets us know every day that we need to not only attend class but excel there,” said guard Malcolm Miller, who will be a senior this school year. “He stresses that as much as basketball. He said our main objective is to finish with degrees.”
Banks, who father Cleophus Banks played at Southern in the 1960s, said he thought this would be a five-year rebuilding project. Because he had to turn over the roster, it meant continuity would have to be sacrificed. There are very few leftover players from when Banks arrived.
But Banks said he was able to bring in some players who have helped improve the program not only on the court but also in the classroom.
“We actually got lucky,” Banks said. “We got a group of guys who bought into the vision. Then we started winning games.
“I’ve had so many people who’ve helped. I’m very thankful for some hard working assistant coaches. My chancellor, Chancellor (James) Llorens, he really understands athletics as it relates to helping the university grow. And he’s really been supportive in the initial push for getting the program moving in the right direction. And our (athletic director, Will Broussard) is a young guy with a lot of energy. That has really helped my fight quite a bit.”
On the court, the Jaguars excelled last season. They finished second in the SWAC regular season then won the league tournament to earn the NCAA Tournament berth. After a 1-5 start, the Jaguars went 15-2 in their next 17 games, including a 53-51 victory against Texas A&M in College Station on Dec. 22, 2012.
Banks said he was asked by many of his colleagues in the coaching profession why he took the job, considering what a monumental task it would be.
But even though Banks, who played at Captain Shreve High and Northwestern State University, isn’t a Southern grad, he still feels like a part of the family. His father played here. His godfather, former Chicago Bulls star Bob Love, also played there. He has so many friends and spent so much time on campus growing up.
“A lot of the guys who are in their 60s and 70s now from Southern, they think I’m like their nephew,” Banks said. “So I understood this place very well. It’s a place that I thought has a chance to get back to being a special program like they were in the past. It’s a challenge but Southern is the right place for me.”
The Greater New Orleans Sports Selection Committee began in 1958 when James Collins spearheaded a group of sports journalists to form a sports awards committee to immortalize local sports history. For 12 years, the committee honored local athletes each month. In 1970, the Sugar Bowl stepped in to sponsor and revitalize the committee, leading to the creation of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, honoring 10 legends from the Crescent City in its first induction class. While adding the responsibility of selecting Hall of Famers, the committee has continued to recognize the top amateur athlete in the Greater New Orleans area each month - the honors enter their 55th year in 2013. To be eligible, an athlete must be a native of the greater New Orleans area or must compete for a team in the metropolitan region.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier bowl games in the country, having hosted 23 national champions, 86 Hall of Fame players, 46 Hall of Fame coaches and 15 Heisman Trophy winners in its 79-year history. The Bowl will host the 80th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic on January 2, 2014. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee is involved with various community initiatives through hosting and sponsorships of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors over 13,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit www.AllstateSugarBowl.org .