Sports

McNeese Invited to Switch Conferences

McNeese State Cowboys head coach Frank Wilson leads the team out before their game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

The longest lasting marriage in Southland Conference history is definitely on the rocks.

McNeese State is close to filing for divorce from the crumbling league after a 50-year relationship. The Cowboys could accept an invitation to play in the Western Athletic Conference as early as today, according to sources.

A source close to the situation confirmed that the WAC officially invited McNeese to join the league late Tuesday afternoon. Cowboy officials are expected to go over details and accept the invite Wednesday.

The two sides were in “serious discussions” most of the day Tuesday.

McNeese President Daryl Burckel and Athletic Director Heath Schroyer were unavailable for comment. WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd has not yet replied to emails from the American Press.

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Schroyer has always said the Cowboys were looking for a path to move up into the Football Bowl Subdivision after missing out on past opportunities.

“We will not miss that train the next time it comes around,” Burckel has famously said to fans.

It appears the train is in the station.

Southland rival Incarnate Word is also expected to accept an invitation to the WAC, though it cannot be confirmed they have been officially invited yet. Both the Cowboys and Cardinals made pitches to WAC officials in September.

The WAC Board is meeting this week with the topic of McNeese and expansion on the agenda according to league Hurd.

In an email to the American Press last Saturday, Hurd responded to the question of McNeese joining the league by replying that there was interest. He also stated that conference had no timetable for any announcement.

This all comes as conferences look to solidify their memberships and plan for the future. It all began when Oklahoma and Texas announced they were leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. Since then it has been a free-for-all as schools have jumped from league to league.

McNeese and UIW join four schools from the Southland that moved to the WAC over the summer. The Cowboys and Cardinals will be reunited with Abilene Christian, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin and Lamar. Reports have Sam Houston along with New Mexico State as being targeted by Conference USA, but nothing has been official and that could now change. 

Sources have said Sam Houston and New Mexico State are still members of the WAC and have not received any offers as of now. The league may even look at starting up talks with UTEP and Louisiana Tech, both former members of the WAC a source said. 

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The WAC restarted football this fall after not offering the sport since 2012, fueled by four former SLC teams that left for the WAC, a charter member of FBS, in June. 

The conference appears poised to reactivate and reclassify as an FBS conference in the next few years according to several sources. That would be perfect timing for McNeese, which is still recovering from the devastating storms of 2020. 

As of now the Cowboys are planning on going back to night games next season when the lighting system in the stadium is fixed. 

“I have and will continue to work for the best interest of McNeese and its student athletes,” Schroyer said earlier Tuesday. “We have always wanted to find a pathway to FBS for the future if it was possible.”

More than ever before it seems possible now.

Written by Jim Gazzolo

Categories: Sports

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