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Big Week for McNeese

Feb 08, 2024 04:37PM ● By Kelsey Swire
By Jim Gazzolo 

A record contract, a fresh recruiting outlook, and a new Power 5 visitor from the West.

For McNeese, it is already quite a week with the weekend still to come.

All of a sudden McNeese State athletics have become a lot, lot more interesting. And it is not just Will Wade, though that is certainly a big part of it.

No longer willing to play the wait, and hope game, Cowboy brass are out to make things happen. 

The biggest deal of the week was the tearing up of Wade’s contract just 23 games into his tenure as the McNeese men’s basketball coach. At 20-3 the Cowboys are off to the best start in program history and setting attendance records with every home game.

Another sellout is expected for Saturday’s showdown against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

With all the national attention that has come with this season, Wade, the former LSU head coach, has seen interest from bigger programs begin. To try and keep other folks away, Athletic Director Heath Schroyer ripped up Wade’s original contract and gave him a new five-year deal with a record $3.5 million plus incentives. 

“I wanted to be proactive,” said Schroyer. 

He hopes to keep the good times inside the Legacy Center rolling for at least one more year. With the added benefits of increased buyout money, Schroyer made it a double win for McNeese. 

The school wins if Wade stays or goes.

As for the coach himself, he seems like a guy who is happy right now.

“Nothing in life is guaranteed, but I fully expect to be here next year,” said Wade. “I fully intend to be back.”

Meanwhile, the big dollars appear to be rolling in more and more for the athletic department.

As for football, for the first time in his three seasons at McNeese head coach Gary Goff will have a full roster of 63 scholarship players out for the start of spring practice next month.

The Cowboys added their final 10 scholarship players Wednesday, as they continued to try and rebuild the football program quickly. Last year McNeese was just 1-10 as youth and lack of depth, especially on the defensive line, proved costly.

“Right now I’m pretty happy with our roster, but we also know things can happen,” Goff said.

The Cowboys also added two new assistant coaches to the staff. 

Josh Brown comes from Texas-El Paso as the co-defensive coordinator to accompany Tony Pecoralo (defensive coordinator). Chaz Scales moves over from Western Carolina to be the defensive passing coordinator. 

“They make our staff stronger,” Goff said.

Wednesday was the first signing day for McNeese with new recruiting coordinator and Chief of Staff Aaron Ingram on board. With a bunch of local players also headed to McNeese as preferred walk-ons, the new direction back to looking at area kids has been a hit.

All this and the start of softball season that begins this weekend. Thursday Pac-12 Cal plays the Cowgirls, the first time the Bears have come to Lake Charles. 

With 14 home games to start the season, which includes a visit from defending national champ and preseason No. 1 Oklahoma, McNeese is proving to be a perfect spot for power teams to come play against.

This was just months after the Cowgirls were within and out of reaching the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament.

It has been a rough ride over the past few years around McNeese, but all the rebuilding and reworking of the athletic department is paying off in more than just wins and dollars.

“The McNeese brand has never been more relevant nationally,” said Schroyer.

This week especially.

 Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese athletics. He is the host of Poke Nation on CBS-Lake Charles