UPDATE: Wade signs five-year deal worth $3.5M plus incentives

Published 2:02 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

One man stood behind a promise, the other on his principles, and Cowboy fans may become the ultimate winners.

Eleven months ago McNeese State Athletic Director Heath Schroyer promised his new head coach when the basketball program got flipped, he would rip up his contract and give him a new one.

Tuesday became that day.

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Schroyer officially announced he had signed his first-year head coach Will Wade to a new five-year deal worth a McNeese record $3.5 million plus incentives. It is a preemptive strike by Schroyer to try and keep the former LSU top guy for at least a second season.

“Nothing in life is guaranteed, but I fully expect to be here next year,” said Wade. “I fully intend to be back.”

McNeese announced the deal in the Legacy Center surrounded by fans and McNeese officials. Wade will be paid $700,000 plus incentives per year while the buyouts will also increase with the number starting at $1.25 million if he were to leave before Aug. 31 of this year. That is a quarter of a million-dollar increase.

The buyout will be for $1 million if he leaves before Aug. 31, 2025, double what it was in the original deal. From there the buyout drops to $500,000 after that.

There is a caveat to the deal. Wade insisted on the buyout being dropped to $500,000 if either Athletic Director Heath Schroyer or Dr. Wade Rousse, the head of the McNeese Athletic Foundation, were to leave the school. If both are gone the buyout is just $200,000.

Dr. Rousse is considered one of the front runners to replace Dr. Daryl Burckel as McNeese president this summer.

“We are all a team,” said Wade. “I could not do this without the team. The team is very important to me.”

According to sources the deal was signed last Friday and will go into effect immediately pending board approval.

“I have always said you can either be reactive or proactive,” said Schroyer. “I have always been proactive.”

The deal replaces the original five-year contract the sides signed last March when Wade was hired to turn around a dead program. Wade was paid a base of $200,000 this season and was to make $250,000 next year.

Wade has said in the past he is grateful for the opportunity McNeese has given him and how much the fans and community have welcomed him.

“The older you get the more you want to make an impact,” said Wade. “You want to leave a place better than you found it.”

Wade has brought life to a dead program in his first season with the Cowboys.

McNeese is on pace for a record season. The Cowboys are 20-3 start, 10-1 in the Southland Conference, after Monday night’s win over Texas A&M-Commerce.

This is just the ninth 20-win season for McNeese as a Division I program and the first since 2011-12. They are also just two victories shy of equaling the school record of 22 wins set in 2000-01.

McNeese lost 45 games the two previous seasons before Wade’s arrival, including a record 23 last year. The Cowboys have not had a winning season since 2012 and haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2002.

“I think it is really easy to see that we have become more than relevant,” said Schroyer. “This program under Coach Wade has become nationally relevant. The McNeese brand has never been more recognizable.

“We can do things that have never been done here before. We can and we should be a Mid-Major power.”

The timing of the new deal is no accident.

Internet chatter and gossip had several programs as a possible landing spot for Wade next season. Schroyer wanted to send a preemptive strike to limit the number of schools that might be interested in the former LSU coach.

Wade still has one year remaining on his NCAA show cause probation stemming from a recruiting scandal while he was at LSU that led to his firing in 2022. His 10-game suspension at the start of this season was part of that punishment

As for interest, the Cowboys have already played in front of three sellout crowds and have drawn over 4,000 fans in four of their last five home games. Merchandise sales on a record pace the program is receiving votes in both of the major national polls for the first time.

Schroyer said men’s basketball revenue has increased five times from all of last season with still eighth games and the postseason left to play.

For Wade, the deal is still about thanking the community and university that embraced him with open arms when he was down.

“I’m proud and humbled to be the coach here,” said Wade. “The community really welcomed me and my family from the first day. I’m proud to hopefully give a little bit of joy back to the community.

“I really believe we are just getting started.”

And it looks like, at least for now, there will be a victory lap for Wade in Lake Charles.