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Friday, September 19, 2014
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SLC Media Day brings with it more questions than answers

Last Modified: Sunday, July 20, 2014 12:59 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

This week the Southland Conference’s football folks are heading back to Lake Charles.

Wednesday is Media Day for the Southland at L’Auberge, as the conference’s football coaches speak to those who will listen.

It is not that four-day hugfest that the Southeastern Conference holds in Hoover, Alabama that seems to hold the interest of all, or at least the South.

The giant that is the SEC spends the better part of a week telling the world how good it is.

This year was no different except the annual dog and pony show came dressed more as an infomercial for the league’s new network. In case you missed it, the SEC Network starts Aug. 14 and is part of ESPN.

ESPN and the SEC, seven letters the rest of America is already sick of.

The Southland could only dream of such interest or really any national interest.

Of late, the Southland has become something of a minor league system to some bigger conferences. Teams get their feet wet in the Southland and once they make a name for themselves they rise to the big leagues, or so it appears.

Louisiana-Lafayette has done it. Troy has done it. Louisiana Tech has jumped up a few notches.

Some even go back to where they came, like Oral Roberts, but since it doesn’t have football nobody really noticed.

There are also rumors of others like Sam Houston State wanting out as well.

It isn’t just the Southland, it’s the rest of the old guard that was known as Division 1-AA football which is suffering such a struggle.

Rebranded as the Football Championship Subdivision, the group that is college football’s second tier is ever changing. It isn’t so much a revolving door but rather a one-way escalator heading up.

You don’t see anybody coming back down either.

This is where the place where the Southland and McNeese State lives.

Probably still the flagship of the conference, McNeese finds itself leading a fleet it hardly recognizes.

Gone are some of their great rivals, having gotten the call up.

It seems the only programs left are ones that either want to move up themselves and can’t or have just gotten the call from Double-A.

Make that Division II.

This is not to pick on them, but rather show what is going on in college football. The big get bigger and the others fall further behind.

Maybe McNeese could have moved up a few years ago like others did. Maybe they can in the future, but that seems more difficult with each passing season.

It’s as if the Cowboys are swimming against the current and the shore keeps getting pushed further away.

Yet this week, everybody will put on their happy face and tell the world that the conference is headed in the right direction.

Truth is nobody knows where the Southland is headed. That is because nobody knows where the finish line will be in college athletes.

One fact we do know, the big five conferences seem ready, willing and able to take their football and go home. They also plan on taking their wallets with them.

That could leave the second group of schools searching for cash and the third, currently our friends in the Southland and FCS, on skid row.

The smaller schools need financial help from the big guys. They don’t need handouts but rather the large paydays they get for playing such schools.

Yet some of the mighty don’t want to help anymore.

The king of kings, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, suggested during his time facing the nation at SEC fest that he thinks the big five conferences should only play teams from other big five conferences. That’s college football’s version of the rich getting even richer.

Without those larger checks the smaller schools will see their bank accounts shrink.

No, the Southland and McNeese are not alone. The laws of nature tell us the big fish always swallows the little fish.

We are just not sure when it is finally going to be feeding time.

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com


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