Jim Gazzolo column: Getting ahead of the problem

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2023

In what seems to be an unprecedented move, McNeese State suspended its basketball coach before he ever got the job.

Call Athletic Director Heath Schroyer many things, but don’t say he isn’t unique.

In a move both sides are hoping paves the way to a lighter sentence from the NCAA, McNeese and new head coach Will Wade agreed to a five-game suspension at the start of next season and then put pen to paper.

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It’s hard to believe this has happened before, but maybe McNeese officials are becoming true trendsetters in the world of college athletics.

The move appears to be smart on both sides as Wade, who was fired from LSU amidst an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations, and McNeese look to get out in front of any possible penalties.

For the Cowboys, they keep enough distance so they can stay as clean as possible. As or Wade, he seems humbled and willing to work for the greater good.

Both parties take the high road and now wait for the NCAA’s final decision, which is expected in June.

Smart, safe, humble. Those last two words don’t generally fit Schroyer’s style, or Wade’s for that matter, but in this case it works. Stay ahead of the game and be prepared for what comes no matter what the direction.

Strangest thing, when you hear Wade and Schroyer speak, they sound a lot alike. Both are perfect pitchmen for whatever you want sold.

In this case, they are selling the NCAA on the fact they want to work with them to resolve this issue.

“We did our due diligence and extensive research,” Schroyer said. “Through my conversations with coach Wade throughout the process, I made him aware that we obviously take these allegations seriously.

“We take the NCAA rules and compliance seriously as well, and we wanted to take a proactive approach and set restrictions at the start to show our campus, system and state stakeholders we understand and respect the process and the NCAA.”

Whether you think Schroyer is stepping in something with those words, they work.

Even the NCAA gets protected by this contract for they now have cover if they elect to, or not to, do anything.

It is odd to see the suspension in the contract, or to imagine any coach starting his new job on the sideline, but we live in strange times to say the least.

In the end McNeese could care little if Wade’s first game against Dallas Baptist or somebody like that has him in the background. They got the guy they wanted, and the fans are happy.

Ticket sales are brisk, and the boosters are opening their checkbooks.

Promoting a new coach with a winning track record, even if he is in suspension jail for a few games, is much easier to promote than a team coming off 23 losses.

And Wade gets to put together his staff, put his final pieces in place and watch from above the floor in those nice suites for a few nights. So what if he rubs elbows with some area bigwigs and not fire shots at officials.

With what we have had to watch over the past few decades with this program, waiting another five games to get the right guy is easy.

We’ve already put up with the hard part.

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