The countdown clock toward South Alabama's return to the college football postseason has dipped below four days. The countdown toward South Alabama coach Kane Wommack signing the future of the Jaguars program is about the same.
On Wednesday at 8 p.m., the New Orleans Bowl will kick off with South Alabama on one sideline and Western Kentucky on the other. It will be South Alabama's first bowl appearance since 2016 and just the third trip overall. About 12 hours earlier, Wommack and his staff will begin receiving signed letters of intent as NCAA football's early signing period starts.
Wommack is more experienced with bowl games, both as a player and a coach, but this is also a first for him.
"This is my 23rd bowl game, but my first one with signing day and the game on the same day," Wommack said. "I'm glad it's an 8 p.m. kick, in that regard."
This signing day carries some different dynamics than in the past. For the most part, programs will sign the bulk of their class in December. But they also have the option of signing more in February.
"Signing days have taken on a bit of a different approach than what we've been used to about 10 years ago where those were pageants and festivities all to themselves," Wommack said. "It was an entire day event. Because of the multiple signing days now, that's not as much of the case. We kind of do more of the 'Signing Day' parties at the very end in February. Now, you don't have to hover over a fax machine in your home building. They can now sign it with their hand [electronically] on a touch screen and send it back to you. We'll have our hub in the Marriott in New Orleans, and that will be signing day central for us."
Then, it will be back to the business at hand.
"We will quickly get ourselves refocused to our walk-throughs, which we are going to do at Tulane's facilities," said Wommack, whose team arrived in New Orleans on Saturday. "That will be a nice opportunity for us because it kills two birds with one stone. We get our walk-through in, but that is also the opponent we open up with next season, and our players will be able to go see their stadium before we go play against them on Sept. 2, 2023."
For now, though, the focus remains on finishing the school's best football season in the proper way. South Alabama enters the game with a 10-2 record in a season that they shared the Sun Belt West Division title with Troy. Before this season, the program had never won more than six games in a season, and the Jaguars lost in both of their bowl appearances.
New Orleans is an entertaining spot for teams participating in the bowl, which is a big part of the trip. But, ultimately, it is still a business trip.
"Bowl games are always fun and unique experiences where you get a chance to play in a game you haven't been thinking about the location or the opponent for a year," Wommack said. "You find out, and then you're playing it a few weeks later. There are a lot of things to be excited about in a bowl game, and there are certain things that I want the players to enjoy in the bowl process and the overall experience, but at the same time, like I told the guys again this morning, the ball gets spotted at 8:05 p.m. and South Alabama is there to win the football game."
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