Jim Gazzolo column: First step in major renovation

Published 9:00 am Thursday, November 17, 2022

Win or lose Saturday, the McNeese State football season will come to a close.

There will once again be no playoffs and for a 20th consecutive season no postseason victory.

While a win over Lamar, a program perhaps in worse shape than the Cowboys, will make for a season-ending three-game win streak, it is not the end.

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It’s the old lipstick on a … You know the story.

Yes, it would show progress and it would make for a feel-good Sunday breakfast around town, but those feelings will quickly pass.

Truth is either way, win or lose in the Battle of the Border, the McNeese program still has a long, long way to go. It is just getting started back up the hill.

Maybe the hope of closing strong helps — it sure beats the opposite — but McNeese football is nowhere close to where it wants and should be.

With the best facilities in the Southland Conference, and more improvements coming, McNeese should be the league’s standard-bearer.

Add the history of Cowboys football and national reputation then you have to wonder just how it sank to where it is, or was.

Clearly mistakes have been made and they can’t be washed away by a couple of wins over teams that are stumbling around in the darkness themselves. The standards have to be higher here.

Gary Goff knows this.

His first year as head coach has been a true struggle in endurance, patience and propaganda.

Goff has had to spend time cleaning up the mess left by others while not expecting miracles. He has also had to spend way too much time going around town telling all who would listen that better times are coming.

He did all this while knowing just how bad things were when he got here and how much work had to be done.

His first 11 months in Lake Charles have opened his eyes and now he gets to start truly turning things around.

Brining in 58 fresh players to this roster was a nice start, but it took 11 games to figure out what he had, and more importantly, what he doesn’t have in order to move forward.

McNeese isn’t in a position to grab from the NCAA transfer portal and promise those in it that playoffs and championships are within reach. Those guys are mostly one-and-done folks who are looking to make a splash.

The Cowboys are more about building the old way, through development and getting a few needed parts to finish the puzzle. For them, recruiting is the key to this rebuild.

And finding those who can help right away is a must. This program might be getting better but it needs difference-makers to get over the hump.

What we witnessed this season was a group of hard workers who did the best they could considering most games they were simply overmatched.

What matters most in winning is talent, especially depth in talent. This is what the Cowboys have lacked and can only be fixed with another year or two of bringing in talented players willing to do the work.

Over the last month or so we have seen improvement, but that should only lead to more energy in the program, not give any reason to let a foot off the gas.

Winning or losing Saturday won’t really mean much two or three years down the road, that is for sure. Still, winning does matter. It’s why we keep score.

But the rebuild doesn’t end with the final gun sometime about 10 p.m. Saturday.

In a way, one could argue it is just now getting started.

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