Jim Gazzolo column: No more hype, just reality

Published 1:02 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Rebuilding a broken college football program doesn’t happen overnight or even in one season, unless you are in Colorado.

Yet for every Buffalo story there are many more Nebraskas, UCLAs and even Florida States to be found.

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It takes time to build, patience and even a bit of luck. That’s not an excuse, it is a reason, an explanation of what happens when you don’t have a head coach last more than three years in coming up on a decade.

Recruiting classes get forgotten, good players transfer and losses mount. Trouble and problems always seem to follow trouble and problems.

It has happened at McNeese State before, it’s just been some time. Look at the record book: the Cowboys have gone through this in their past and come out of it. That’s the cycle of sports.

None of this is what McNeese State football fans want to hear, and none of it will be accepted by all. Just stating facts.

Granted, there isn’t one of us ever figured this team would start the season 0-5, yet here we are, a winless football team that had much higher — looking back too high — of expectations.

We all get the blame for some of that, for buying and selling the hype. We wanted to go right from flunking out to straight A’s without doing any of the homework. It is what we now all have grown to expect.

Unfortunately we overlooked the shape this football program was in, how bad things really were and how far it had fallen. There are a lot of people to blame for this, but that is all in the past. One person who is not at fault is Gary Goff, the guy brought in to change things.

It’s like your in-laws, you didn’t marry them but you are stuck for better or worse with the group. Goff got stuck with a mess created by others. That doesn’t get him off the hook for this season, it is just another explanation, a statement of fact.

There are those ready for another quickie divorce, one that gives the Cowboys another new start. There may come a time when that trigger must be pulled, but now is not it. Now is the time for us to step back, re-evaluate our own expectations and understand what is fact and what is fiction.

McNeese is a young football team, that’s a fact. We had all hoped they would grow up quicker and learn faster. We wanted them to go from 0 to 60 without even checking the engine.

Cowboys fans have certain expectations and believe McNeese is a special place, which to them it is. But this generation of players don’t understand the history. They weren’t even born the last time the Cowboys won a postseason game.

That is the fact.

In today’s world of college sports, when the going gets tough the first reaction of a lot of players is they get going … into the NCAA transfer portal. It is happening throughout college sports and, while some programs benefit, others suffer.

The entire Southland Conference is trying to figure out this new world and only Incarnate Word seems to have a handle on it.

Goff, in his second year, says he believes his formula will work even with the changing landscape. That remains to be seen, to be honest and state the facts. But you can’t bring a guy in to rebuild your house and kick him out before most of the material even gets on site.

At some point some a coach is going to have to be given the time to get this program headed in the right direction. It will be painful, like this season is becoming. It will be at times ugly and there will be questions about what is going on.

But you have to give it time. You have to give it at least three years to see if this direction is the right one. You can’t give up before you even get started.

Otherwise we will find the program right back to where it was at the end of the 2021 season.

And if you aren’t willing to give Goff at least three seasons, if not his full contract including two rollover years, then who is going to want to come here next?

The reason McNeese attracts any interest from coaches is its history and fans who stand behind the program. Lose that and all might be lost.

Of course, you can’t rebuild forever. At some point in time you have to win.

When that becomes impossible we will all know, and that’s when change is called for.

We aren’t even close to that yet.

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