Jim Gazzolo column: McNeese invests in winning

Published 11:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2023

Every day Gary Goff goes to work he can see the investment being made in his football program.

Slowly but surely the new $31 million press box gets assembled behind the west grandstands of Cowboy Stadium.

Goff’s office overlooks the construction.

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A floor below his desk is a brand-new $1.2 million locker room that gives the Cowboys the best place to dress, relax and recover in maybe all of the Football Championship Subdivision.

It is by far the best in the Southland Conference, a five-star hotel in world of off-the-freeway motels whose ‘O’ is out when the lights come on.

McNeese State has gone all in on its football program, shoving its chips to the middle of the table before knowing exactly what cards it holds.

A week from today the Cowboys will begin to display their cards in hopes of stealing the pot in a conference with few hands showing.

The SLC has four new head coaches, a host of new players and absolutely no true front-runner. If somebody is proclaimed the team to beat, it’s just a guess, for there is no real data to support the fact.

None of that matters to McNeese fans who haven’t been this excited for the start of a season since perhaps 2015. Coincidentally, that was the last time the Cowboys won the Southland and made the playoffs.

Of course, they haven’t won a postseason game since 2002, that’s two decades ago and before about half the current roster was born.

To say there is a lot on the line in Goff’s second season is an understatement, and he knows it. The 2-ton gorilla on his back is the fact that the current administration has made it known a move up to the larger and richer Football Bowl Subdivision level is, to say the least, preferred.

After three consecutive losing seasons, the Cowboys can’t hide anymore and Goff knows it.

“We have to win, I get that,” he said recently. “A lot of people have put a lot of money into the program. So there is pressure but there is always pressure to win.

“That’s part of the game.”

However, the game is changing at McNeese. After years of resting on its tradition and past glories, the Cowboys were not only passed by but some of the other Southland schools but left in the dust.

A good portion of their rivals have moved out of the league, some to the FBS level. That can’t be accepted.

It’s one thing to lose a league title to Sam Houston State, it’s another to be watching Incarnate Word come into the league, struggle, then dominate. Meanwhile, McNeese stood still, pointing to its title-winning years above the north end zone and proclaiming loudly “We are McNeese.”

That became a muttering more of the past seasons recently of “We Were McNeese.”

So Goff was brought in, the fifth head coach since the last playoff game and fourth in the six years. And he was brought here as the first real investment into football in a long, long time.

Now, after a busy offseason of revamping the roster, and with further investment, it is time to see real progress.

“We had to put back into our revenue-making programs,” Athletic Director Heath Schroyer continues to state. “But we also have to get a return on that investment and that is winning. Football and men’s basketball must win.”

And that winning must start this season.

Nobody is expecting the Cowboys, who are still very young, to win them all. The program still has growing to do. But another losing season, without question, will be seen as a defeat.

Too many people have invested too much time and too much money for that to be acceptable.

The days of reliving past victories are over. It’s time for the Cowboys to make new memories and rekindle their winning ways.

If not, all the rebuilding is just throwing good money after bad.

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