On Friday, the Southland Conference announced that all soccer and volleyball competition has been suspended through Aug. 31. Despite the conference's announcement that teams could fill out a non-conference schedule with games after Sept. 1, the McNeese athletic department elected not to do so, instead choosing to have the soccer and volleyball teams play conference-only schedules.
Prior to Friday, the McNeese soccer team had already lost a preseason scrimmage and two non-conference matches when the SWAC cancelled its fall schedule and the Sun Belt Conference delayed the start of its fall sports until Sept. 3. Now, the Cowgirls have lost six regular season matches and the scrimmage; McNeese will open up its season on Sept. 18 at home against Nicholls.
The volleyball team was going to play its entire non-conference schedule in multi-team invitationals and cups. But now, the Cowgirls' season will start on Sept. 24 at home against Southeastern Louisiana.
McNeese Athletic Director Heath Schroyer mentioned a few different reasons for taking the SLC's decision a step further and choosing to eliminate non-conference play for volleyball and soccer.
"Obviously, it's an ever changing, fluid situation in college athletics today," Schroyer said. "And we've obviously had discussions every week as a conference. We're kind of falling in line with many other conferences across the country, let alone conferences at our level. For us, after talking to administration and looking at it, I thought the student-athletes' safety is my
number one priority."
The financial strain of not only having student-athletes on campus early, but also feeding, housing, and having to test them for COVID-19 played a factor in the decision as well. It is likely that neither the volleyball nor soccer team will come back to campus until right around when McNeese State begins classes on Aug. 17.
The athletic department did not make volleyball head coach Kristee Porter or soccer head coach Drew Fitzgerald available for comment on Friday, but Schroyer addressed the conversation he had with them and how they took the news.
"Anytime you have those discussions, they're always difficult," Schroyer said. "But at the same time, all of our coaches, (Porter and Fitzgerald) in particular, have been really really great ambassadors for this university… They understood, and they understand where we're at. Right now, personally, I'm just trying to give all of us the best chance we can for all of us to have a season."
While most of the fall sports have been affected, football's season has not as of yet. The Cowboys' still have a full 11-game 2020 schedule which is scheduled to start on Sept. 5 at UL-Lafayette. But there have been reports that the Big Sky Conference could opt to delay fall sports or not play non-conference games. If that happened, it would eliminate McNeese's Sept. 12 home-opener against Northern Colorado. Schroyer says that he, the athletic department administrators, and head coach Frank Wilson, are aware of the possible change for the Big Sky. McNeese does plan on finding an 11th game if Northern Colorado falls through.
On a brighter note, McNeese football got on the practice field for the first time in the Frank Wilson as they participated in a walkthrough on Friday. Media was not allowed out, but the McNeese athletic department did put a release out covering the unofficial first day of practice.
"We have a talented group," Wilson said after Friday's walkthrough. "We have a ton of potential that has yet to be tapped into. It was a typical first day in many ways but very proud of our team and their ‘want to'."