Jim Gazzolo column: SFA will find new Southland

Published 10:51 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

With the return of Stephen F. Austin and its fans to the Southland Conference, it is time for all parties to kiss and make up.

In keeping with this Kumbaya feeling, here is an open letter to Lumberjacks fans as they try to put a smile on their face and lower that special finger they have been giving to their former league the last three seasons.

So here is that note:

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Old friends from Nacogdoches, Texas.

Welcome back. We missed you. Where have you been?

Did you win a lot of championships while you were away?

Didn’t see much of you in the postseason.

Looking at your social media talk it seems most of you aren’t too pleased with the move back. It seems as if you still feel you’re too good for us.

Personally, I think that’s WAC-ed. LOL.

Well, that’s all water under the dam, or over the bridge, or wherever water goes to quote Major League 3.

In all honesty, the good folks of Lake Charles did miss you, after all, we have won the last three football games against you. In case you haven’t noticed, we haven’t won that many since you left either.

So we will hang the welcome sign when you join us in Cowboy Stadium on Sept. 14 as you return to “The Hole.”

What a way to mark your return to the conference you bolted, playing in a game after the teams combined to go 1-12 in their respective leagues last year. Yes, we count that Northwestern State forfeit win, and looking at how things have gone for you guys, you would too.

So don’t judge us.

But just a warning: a lot of things have changed around here since you last came to town. So there are some things you need to know if you are looking to catch up on the last three seasons.

First, and you may have heard, we have a different commissioner. You may not be able to bully him.

Chris Grant knows there is a Louisiana and has been to Lake Charles. We have photos to prove it.

He’s been good for the league for the most part. Still a little too pro-Texas for our liking perhaps, but that might be because he hates paying income taxes. So we let him slide on that.

As for your rivalry with McNeese, well it will be different. We figured out there is money in town, and if asked nicely, they are willing to fork it over for an athletic department that has a vision.

And the department caught up with the times and learned how to promote itself. There’s even some NIL dollars bringing a new type of athlete to The Chuck.

Some call us Chuck Vegas, but that’s more of a dying fad.

Also, the days of kicking our tail in basketball, well they might be over. You may have heard some fella named Will Wade is here and he’s done some things in the conference that haven’t been seen since you guys had that guy now at Illinois on your bench.

OK, maybe those tail kickings aren’t over for good, but they are on hold, at least until this Wade guy moves on to his own Illinois.

And the rest of the league is different. If you don’t believe us go ask your fellow Texans from Lamar, which had a really good baseball team last year along with a much-improved football team.

Those guys should be in a regional somewhere in baseball recently if the NCAA treated all parties fairly.

And wait until you see what has changed in San Antonio. Incarnate Word has done some things in football that aren’t close to resembling what they looked like last time you attended one of our media days.

Nicholls State plays pretty good basketball along with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

That league you left because you were too good isn’t that bad anymore.

I’m not saying you won’t win your share of games, but it won’t be the cakewalk some of you are thinking either, even with all your Texas money.

If you want to compete in this league you have to bring your wallets, and maybe some humble pie, at least until you prove the rest of us wrong for staying.

Anyway, we here in Lake Charles are glad you are back. Not sure how long we are sticking around ourselves but it will be fun while we are both here. We will see you soon.

Your friends from LC.

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