Wild year ends for McNeese

by Jim Gazzolo

By Jim Gazzolo

A year that began with the reboot of football ended with the start of its rebuild.

In between, there were peaks and valleys, wins and losses. and a lot of drama at McNeese State.

The year 2021 will go down as one of the strangest and wild in school history, as the recovery from the storms of 2020 went full power.

During the 12 months there would be two new basketball coaches, extensions for the baseball and softball managers and finally a late and surprising change at the top of football.

If that was not enough, there would be the volleyball coach also leaving after a winning season. All this as the facilities started to get rebuild and new money began to flow into the department. 

And yes, there was all that talk about changing conferences that ended with McNeese staying in the Southland. 

All and all 2021 was a year to remember.

“There were a lot of moving parts,” MSU Athletic Director Heath Schroyer said. “A lot of things were going on at the same time.”

Schroyer was in the middle of all of it. He took over the program fully in January and never stopped moving, coming close to taking the Cowboys to the Football Bowl Subdivision level. He also had them moving to the Western Athletic Conference…all most. 

In the end he cut a deal with the troubled Southland to keep the Cowboys home and make the school the league’s centerpiece.

Calling it the right thing at the time, Schroyer has Lake Charles hosting not only football media day starting in July but also home to future league championship tournaments in both men’s and women’s basketball along with baseball and softball. 

Last spring both the softball and baseball teams at McNeese were able to win despite their circumstances, capturing SLC championships and making the NCAA tournaments. Both coaches were rewarded with new deals. 

The end of basketball season saw two new coaches enter the programs at McNeese. Lynn Kennedy took over the Cowgirls while John Aiken leads the Cowboys. Unable to play in their on-campus arena, the teams were forced to play back in Burton until the Legacy Center was fixed.

The year also saw the naming rights for the Legacy Center put $2.5 million over the next 10 years into the athletic program while the school was looking for a new conference to call home. The naming rights is the biggest in school history. 

The fall saw football stumble to a 4-7 season but the bigger news came when Frank Wilson resigned as head coach two weeks after the season. Wilson moved on to LSU while McNeese hired Gary Goff from Valdosta State. 

And that’s how 2022 begins, with Goff taking over the football program three days into the new year. 

If 2022 is anything like the last year one thing is for sure, it won’t be dull. 

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

Categories: Community, McNeese State Sports