Do you believe in jinxes? I do.

On Wednesday, I felt like I had so little to write about that I compiled a notebook to run in this Friday's paper about Cody Roscoe transferring to Syracuse and McNeese State football picking up a commitment. No news that I would consider earth-shattering.

I had just filed that story and was about to work on my column. Yes, this column that you're reading. Initially I was going to take the city of Lake Charles and the Southland Conference to task about honoring and memorializing heroes of the confederacy. But then I had to put that on the back burner (it's coming though, don't you worry).

As I sat down to write that column, I got a text that read, "Big news coming down in a few minutes." What it was, I was not exactly sure. Right before that though, I had mentioned, aloud, how little I had to write and report on. Of course, that changed in an instant.

And when the news came, it hit like a figurative ton of bricks.

The McNeese athletic department was reconfiguring itself, with men's head basketball coach Heath Schroyer taking over as the interim athletic director. The whole release was so confusing that I had to read it multiple times, and I still felt like I was missing something.

After more reading, and a phone interview with McNeese President Daryl Burckel, I gained clarity.

Here's my explanation of what's going on, best I can tell you.

Schroyer will be the interim AD and there will be five senior associate athletic directors. Each senior associate AD will be in charge of certain duties and specific sports.

For instance, former interim AD Tanner Stines will serve as the athletic department's chief financial officer and will assist with fundraising and donor relations. The sports he will be in charge of are football and track and field.

I will go into more detail about why Burckel decided on this model in a later story, but when I spoke with him on Wednesday, he said this model will keep members of the athletic department from being stretched as thin as they have been. That goes counter to what I initially thought, as I believed that this would stretch them even thinner. I will defer to Burckel on this one, and I guess the results will show themselves over the course of the school year.

Overall, I can't lie to you, this feels weird. I mean, I get it, but I don't.

Among the biggest questions I have is, can Schroyer handle being the face of an athletic department and leading his men's basketball team?

The Cowboys were already saddled (get it? Cowboys saddled) with high expectations going into the 2020-21 season. Then they caught a break with the SLC schedule shrinking from 20 to 16 game and McNeese not having to face three of the top four seeds from last season. Now the head coach has been bestowed a significant title. I'm not saying that he can't, but I do believe it's fair to question it.

But Burckel said he's impressed with Schroyer's ability to fund raise and interact with donors, which are important components to being an AD.

The plan, Burckel said, is for this to be only for the 2020-21 academic year. Remember, McNeese still needs a permanent AD, but it suspended the search during the COVID-19 lockdown.

When I heard there was big news coming, I honestly figured that McNeese was taking the interim tag off Stines' position, or that they did an about-face and hired a new AD. Turns out, they kind of did neither and both at the same time.

I wasn't able to contact Schroyer to ask him about some of the details I'm still wondering about, but hopefully I can soon enough and follow-up on the changes.

But another question I have is, who will the senior associate ADs report to during basketball season? It's been made clear that Schroyer will focus on basketball season, but when does that start? Do individual practices and drills signify the start, or is it the official first day of practice?

The more I think of the idea, I don't think I'd qualify it as a bad one. But I will say it's strange and outside the box. Who knows? Maybe that will work, and that's what the athletic department needs.

To be clear, I definitely know why they're doing this: to save money. Like many athletic programs throughout the country, McNeese is struggling financially and it needs to find creative ways to save money. I asked Burckel and he said cutting any of the 16 athletic programs was never an option. With that not happening, funds had to be saved somewhere. I guess this is the somewhere.

Only time will tell how these changes will work. But I will credit McNeese for not hanging any student-athletes out to dry in this situation.

As for everything else, we will see.


David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at dberry@americanpress.com

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