The circumstances through which the 2020 Southland Conference Football Media Day was held was certainly unique. That meant the presentation was also much different, with the conference going virtual this year for obvious reasons (COVID-19 if you happened to not know).
Otherwise, not much stood out to me for this year's media day. There were a few reasons for that, which I will get into over the course of this column.
First, I'll start out with the presentation. Everything was done via Zoom, to the point where Sam Houston State head coach K.C. Keeler joked that he should have bought stock in the company months ago. From my perspective, there weren't any major bugs with Zoom, just the typical volume problems that tend to happen with anybody who has used the platform. Even McNeese head coach Frank Wilson spent a few minutes screaming "Hello," as the media waited on him to deliver his opening statement. He wasn't late, he clarified.
The ability for the media to ask questions was there, but limited. In person last year, we had a limited amount of questions to ask, but generally speaking, the media got to ask what they felt they wanted and needed to ask. This year, some questions were answered, some were not. It felt more like a media relations exercise than any chance to ask tough questions. I'm sure SLC Commissioner Tom Burnett, the coaches, players, and sports information directors didn't mind that. But it felt like they could have done a little more to get media questions in.
Of course, the major topic and figurative elephant in the room for media day was COVID-19 and it's possible effects on the start of fall sports, particularly football season. Well, Burnett came out and said, "We are planning to proceed with the 2020 season as scheduled," with regard to fall football. It's a bit surprising to me, considering the moves that other FCS conferences have already made. But on the other hand, it's not surprising at all, as McNeese officials have stated for months that they plan on playing football as long as they will be allowed to.
It seems like the SLC's plan is to kick the can as far down the road as they can. Only time will tell if that will work.
Burnett also said that the conference plans to allow as many fans into stadiums as state and local guidelines allow, and there are no plans for the conference to supersede those guidelines.
I understand why they are choosing to do it this way, even if it is a bit befuddling. It is wholly unfair to compare the Southland Conference to the Ivy League, which was the first FCS conference to suspend fall sports. Five of the top 10 largest college endowments in the United States are Ivy League schools, and the remaining league schools aren't too far behind. Financially, those schools can afford to take the financial hit of no sports for what will wind up being most of two-straight semesters.
The Southland Conference, along with some others, can't afford to make that sacrifice. If they decide not to play football this fall, the decision will have been forced upon them.
As for on-field subject matter, expectations for McNeese, at least from the outside, are high, but not too high. The preseason poll picked the Cowboys to finish fifth in the SLC, behind (in order) Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State, Nicholls, and Southeastern Louisiana.
It's hard to tell how good the 2020 McNeese team will be, because no one has seen them play football yet. The talent will certainly be there, with Wilson stocking up on FBS transfers to go with a solid core returning from last year's team and a promising incoming class of freshman and other transfers.
With no playoffs possible due to a 2020 postseason ban, all the Cowboys can do right now is win the 11 games that are currently on a challenging schedule. Even a 9-10 win season would send the seniors out on a high note and build some very positive momentum going into the 2021 season.
There's still a long way to go before the regular season is supposed to begin, and a lot can happen between now and then. But the SLC has made the decision to go forward with football. A lot of fans are excited about it.
But all we can do now is wait and see.
David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org