BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — When the preseason SWAC poll picked Southern to win the West division, certainly no one expected the Jaguars to fire head coach Eric Dooley before the season ended.

Yet, Tuesday afternoon, Athletic Director Roman Banks met with Dooley to discuss the state of the football team and their visions for the future. The two’s outlooks did not align, and Banks dismissed Dooley with two guaranteed years left on his contract. Still, Banks found some positive in Dooley’s shortened tenure.

“I think hiring Coach Dooley was a great boost for us. He was able to stimulate the fan base,” Banks said.

The Jaguars returned to the SWAC Championship in Dooley’s first year and even led the division late into this season. Yet, the performance of the team, especially in the past few weeks, did not match the expectation of the standard set at Southern.

“To the fans, to the people, to the media, we missed this one, this one on me and we’re going to make some changes,” Banks said.

Now interim head coach Terrence Graves and acting head coach Sean Wallace take charge of the team and prepare for the 50th annual Bayou Classic.

“Winning this game solves a lot of ills and it makes a lot of people happy. And more importantly, the players are happy, because that’s the most important thing. You want those guys to leave off the field as winners to springboard to the next season,” Graves said.

Interim head coach Graves found himself in an identical situation two years when Grambling fired head coach Broderick Fobbs the week before the Classic, and Graves led the Tigers to a 29-26 victory.

Acting head coach Wallace is a former Bayou Classic MVP. He’s also battling stage IV pancreatic cancer, a cause the team has rallied around this year with the motto ‘Sean Strong’.

“Going into the hospital for an I.V. and being told that you got stage four pancreatic cancer isn’t fair. However, life is about how you respond to it. And so we must respond to it in a positive manner and go forward, because that’s what life requires of us if we want to win,” Wallace said.