Following bread crumbs: McNeese investigation sheds light on spygate

Published 8:28 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

In a story right out of a Cold War-spy novel, the historically bad McNeese State football season might have a twist of the unthinkable to it.

McNeese’s internal investigation revealed that the Cowboys had videos of their practices and games, along with game plans, either hacked or leaked during the season.

While how much might have been passed along to opposing teams that saw McNeese finish 0-10 on the field with its lone victory coming by way of forfeit, is unknown, it does raise more than a few questions.

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Second-year head coach Gary Goff claims players from Southeastern Louisiana were calling out the names of McNeese’s plays after they were signaled in from the sideline during the Cowboys’ 38-24 loss to the Lions on Nov. 4 in Hammond.

“Our kids came off the field and said they knew our plays and were yelling them out by the exact names almost before we had them relayed,” Goff said. “That got our attention.”

Goff said that led to an internal investigation by video coordinator Raymond Donovan that night when the Cowboys returned home.

The American Press was given a copy of a document named “Thundercloud Investigation.” Thundercloud is the name of the online platform McNeese players and coaches use to access videos of games and practices.

The 10-page report reveals that from May to November of this year, a McNeese coach’s internet protocol address was used from Greenville, North Carolina, to access videos.

“I know for a fact somebody logged into our account from North Carolina dating back to the spring,” Donovan said. “Whoever it was, was not associated with that IP address and was not supposed to have access to our account.”

Donovan confirmed that the IP address used was that of former defensive backs coach Marco Sanchez, who was suspended by Goff for the season’s final two games after the loss to Southeastern.

Sanchez, who Goff brought with him from Valdosta State in December of 2021, was quietly fired on Nov. 20, the Monday after the season.

“We feel a little bit betrayed and confused,” Goff said. “You got somebody you work with who knows somebody from outside is watching your practices without my approval is definitely confusing.

“He had knowledge that somebody outside our organization was watching our practice and game film on a regular basis and never brought it to my attention.”

Sanchez denied knowing that his address was used by a third party.

“I don’t know anything about that,” Sanchez said. “I was fired for what I believe was performance.”

“I have no idea what they did with it, but we have absolute facts from an IP address that it was somebody from North Carolina,” Goff said.

Goff reiterated that there is no proof anything was passed on to teams but it did lead to McNeese going to a wristband system in the final game of the season at Lamar.

“We will change all our passwords and all our signals moving forward, that is for sure,” Goff said. “This is no excuse for the season we had, we will just learn from this and we will be extra careful in the future.”