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McNeese head coach Sterlin Gilbert during their Southland Conference matchup at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, La., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Sterlin Gilbert is leaving McNeese State after one season as head coach. The Cowboys finished 7-5 and 5-4 in the Southland Conference. The onetime South Florida offensive coordinator will take the same post at Syracuse.

It's one and done for Sterlin Gilbert as McNeese State's head football coach.

Reports emerged Saturday that Gilbert will leave McNeese to be the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Syracuse.

The McNeese athletic department did not respond to requests for comment.

However, McNeese President Daryl Burckel fielded questions about the situation after the McNeese men's basketball game against Northwestern State.

"Anytime something like this happens, it catches you off guard," Burckel said. "But when you have high-quality coaches, this is possible. But I'll tell you, he left us better than when he got here."

Gilbert was hired at McNeese on Dec. 5, 2018 after former head coach Lance Guidry did not have his contract renewed at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Gilbert went 7-5 in his lone season as Cowboys head coach.

Gilbert's departure comes less than a month after the McNeese athletic department publicly announced that the football team would be banned from the 2020 postseason due to low NCAA Academic Progress Rate scores over a four-year period.

The move also makes it three schools in three seasons for Gilbert, who has not spent more than two seasons at any program since entering the collegiate coaching ranks at Eastern Illinois in 2012.

Gilbert does have a connection at Syracuse, having previously coached under Orange head coach Dino Babers for three seasons between EIU and Bowling Green. While at EIU, Gilbert and Babers coached current San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who won the 2013 Walter Payton Award, the Football Championship Subdivision version of the Heisman Trophy.

Gilbert makes three coaches who have departed the football staff since the end of the season.

In December, Matt Mattox and Nick Graham both took positions at Texas-San Antonio, Mattox as the run-game coordinator/offensive line coach and Graham as cornerbacks coach.

It's probable that there will be more coaching defections if the athletic department chooses to hire a coach who is not currently on staff. Wide receivers coach Jeff Lepak is also a candidate to go back to Syracuse, where he worked as the special teams quality control coach from 2016-18.

Burckel also said McNeese is not planning a drawn-out search for a successor.

"Someone will get a great opportunity," Burckel said about being the next person to lead the Cowboys.

Burckel said McNeese is waiting to receive Gilbert's official resignation letter before it releases a statement.

Burckel said Gilbert's buyout — what he has to pay the school to leave — will be $100,000 because he left with two years remaining on his contract.

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