Last Modified: Thursday, February 07, 2013 10:06 PM
Both the near and distant future of McNeese State’s scheduling for football and other sports were made a little bit more clear on Thursday.
The Cowboys will open their 2013 home football schedule against defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 7. UAPB finished 10-2 in 2012, making it one of nine Football Championship Subdivision schools to reach 10 wins.
“This is a great game for us to open our home schedule,” McNeese head coach Matt Viator said in a school release. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to host the defending SWAC champion in our home stadium. We’re looking forward to a great game.”
McNeese has filled 11 of next season’s 12 games with six to be played at Cowboy Stadium. The season opens with a visit to Football Bowl Subdivision South Florida on Aug. 31.
Athletic Director Tommy McClelland said the possibilities for a 12th game range anywhere from a second FBS guarantee game to an FCS road game to another home game.
“In a normal year we’d be done with 11 games,” McClelland said. “We’re trying to find that bonus game. We’ve got what our target was with six home games. … There’s not a lot of people left. We’ve got to get the terms and dates right. There still might be some movement left. It’s a process.”
The scheduling process will be easier for McClelland in future years.
The Southland Conference announced Thursday that members will play eight conference games in 2014 and nine conference games starting in 2015.
Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word and Houston Baptist will make their league football debuts in 2014. HBU, which is starting its football program, will play eight conference games in ’15 and ’16.
Each team will randomly miss playing two conference opponents in 2014 and one in 2015 and beyond.
McClelland said the expanded conference schedule will cut down on the number of Division II opponents scheduled by league members.
“I think it’s the right thing. It’s a huge step for our league,” McClelland said. “It shows the commitment to focus on bettering our league in terms of national exposure towards the playoffs.”
The matter of scheduling games in other sports was a bit more complex.
McClelland said the league hired an outside consultant with experience building NBA and airline schedules to balance 14 members without a divisional split while taking into account that two schools are transitioning into Division I.
As a result, in 2013-14 men’s and women’s basketball programs will play a home-and-home against five other teams, then face the other six current Division I teams in the league one time — three home and three away.
They will also play single games, home or away, against ACU and UIW, which are ineligible to compete in the SLC tournament. Those two schools will be integrated as full league members for the 2014-15 season.
In baseball, league members will play nine three-game series against league opponents in 2014 and one three-game set against either ACU or UIW, but not both. Everyone will miss two of the league’s 12 current D-I baseball programs, which will also include New Orleans.
McClelland said the schedules were even harder to put together than they are to explain.
“That bridge schedule in every sport is a nightmare,” he said. “There’s going to be some growing pains in it. You’re incubating these teams. You have to limit your exposure to them; yet you have to have them in the league. When they are full members, it is less complicated at that point.”