Jim Gazzolo column: Clock is ticking for UIW

Published 11:00 am Thursday, May 5, 2022

Well, we’re waiting.

As officials at Incarnate Word ponder the direction of their athletic programs, two conferences have been put on hold.

Officially, Incarnate Word accepted an invitation to join to the Western Athletic Conference starting on July 1.

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That’s a handshake or pinky promise if you prefer. Consider it an oral commitment to leave the Southland behind. And we all know what commitments are worth in the world of college athletics.


So it is not surprising with all the changes in the WAC, and rumored changes, that UIW officials are having second thoughts. It took Lamar one year to figure this out, reversing its decision to leap leagues.

Now Incarnate Word is on the clock.

The sooner the Cardinals make their decision known to the world the better for everybody. Schedules must be made, road trips planned and parents who want to follow their kids need to know.

From the cheap seats here in Lake Charles, this decision seems easy. It’s one McNeese officials had to make last fall when they turned down the WAC’s invitation and at the last minute stayed in the Southland.

Yes, they were given a lot to stay put, but the writing was also on the wall. The WAC made promises it clearly could not keep.

The league was not going to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision and it was not a two-bid basketball conference. With New Mexico State’s exit to Conference USA, which was followed by Sam Houston State’s decision to do the same, the WAC lost its clout.

When you take into consideration Lamar heading back to the SLC the shift in power and momentum was back to the Southland. In the game of college conference pingpong, the SLC is holding serve.

Common sense would tell Incarnate Word the grass is no longer greener in the WAC. And the cost of moving is going up.

With the price of gas and travel costs up, the smart play is to stay closer to home. Especially when you consider the fact Incarnate Word football averaged a reported 2,483 fans last year, and that is being very generous.

Hard to make ends meet traveling to the West Coast when all you draw just under 2,500.

And I find it hard to believe that the classic match up with Dixie State is going to bring the good folks of San Antonio out in droves.

Are you reading this, Stephen F. Austin officials?

I get the whole ego thing. I understand you wanting to be wanted, to want to leave the old Southland behind. God knows how long we have been pushing McNeese to go elsewhere.

But you need a landing spot if you are going to jump. The WAC just isn’t it. It’s leaping from a still-flying plane — yes, at times low on fuel — without a parachute.

Change for the better is good. Change for the sake of change is nothing more than rearranging furniture when you really need a new home.

Let’s not forget, UIW is gaining ground on the Southland. The football program has been better, the women’s basketball team recently made the NCAA Tournament by winning the SLC and most of their other teams are as competitive as ever.

Now you want to bolt just when you are getting into the groove, seems timing is not great.

So, to the folks in charge at Incarnate Word, you don’t have to pay those exit fees and head to the WAC. Keep your money in your pocket and stay in the Southland.

It’s the only thing that makes sense, but time is running out.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press. Email him at jimgazzolo@yahoo.com