Cowboys content to avoid conference chaos

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

As chaos swirls all around, McNeese State calmly goes about its business.

The world of college football continues to turn upside down with schools shifting conferences at the drop of a hat, or a few

bucks here and there.

Traditions and rivalries have been tossed aside in the name of big business.

But not all believe bigger is better.

McNeese is one of those. When it comes to conference musical chairs the Cowboys are comfortable in their current seat.

The school remains committed to the Southland Conference and the Football Championship Subdivision. There is no talk of moving

up or moving out of the Southland.

“We are comfortable in our own suits,” said McNeese Athletic Director Tommy McClelland. “We know who we are and we strive

to be the best we can at what we do.”

That is not the case elsewhere in the Southland.

Three teams left the league after last season, two moving up to play in college football’s top division. Others have made

the move in the past, including the Louisiana-Lafayette.

The last two years the Ragin’ Cajuns have found success going to bowl games, but before then not so much. It has left some

to talk about a possible McNeese move up.

However, McClelland said he has heard little of such speak and believes that would not be good for the Cowboys.

“I just don’t think it would work for us,” he said. “You have to look at our budget, I don’t think we have the finances and

resources to compete on that level.

“In order to do so, you have to throw your football program under the bus to make the most money possible. I don’t believe

that would be worth it for us.”

Those schools which have moved up over the years have taken beatings. ULL and Louisiana-Monore have struggled more autumns

than not.

“You have to wonder if it is worth it,” McClelland said. “You think 7-4 was tough, if we went to the Sun Belt or something

like that, 7-4 would be heaven.”

Turning a football team into an athletic program’s personal ATM is not always wise. However, with all the money being thrown

at schools by television deals, you don’t want to be left out of things, either.

McClelland said he understands that and the pressure to raise money. In a world where state funding is shrinking and cost

of playing is growing, finding every dollar and pinching every penny has become equally important to winning every game.

“There is pressure on all of us to bring in new and more revenue,” McClelland said. “That is the case no matter what league

you are in.”

As for the rest of the Southland, “I can’t speak for them or their schools,” McClelland said. “Schools have come and gone

and the league is still going strong.”

And still successful.

“Last year a Southland school played for the football national championship, and if Sam Houston (State) leaves, I believe

some other league school will step up and play for the championship,” McClelland. said. “I believe the conference remains

strong. We have lost some good schools over the years and we have added some good schools. That’s the way it is.”

As for the Cowboys,  McClelland said the goal remains the same.

“We have unfinished business in the FCS,” he said, noting twice McNeese has lost the title game. “We are committed to winning

a national championship. That remains the focus.”

It is something that McNeese and other FCS schools can claim is an option. For schools like ULL there is no title hope.

“It is nice that Lafayette was able to play and win the New Orleans Bowl last year, but they don’t have a chance to compete

with the Alabamas and LSUs for a national championship,”  McClelland said. “We do, and I think that is a good thing. It is

something we can sell our players.”

Bowl games are nice, but really only

three or four matter to the college football fan. However, a small

playoff is coming

to Football Bowl Subdivision with expansion likely to follow

quickly. And there are those tempting television dollars growing

by the hour.

Still, McClelland said the Cowboys are happy with who and where they are.

“For those groups of people that feel they need to move, they have that option,” he said. “For us, we are happy where we are.

We know who and what we are and we are trying to be the best we can at that level.

“We like our programs as they are now.”

Of course, in the world of college athletics, now doesn’t seem to last long.