Southland enters new era, McNeese takes leadership role in shaping conference’s future

Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press

When the Southland Conference imploded last December, and five teams hit the eject button and fled, the league clearly needed to go in a new direction.

McNeese State officials said it was time for them to step into the void and take on more of a leadership role in the league’s future.

“We want to have a say in where this conference is headed,” McNeese President Dr. Daryl Burckel said. “As the longest tenured member of the Southland it is important that we have input into the future of the conference. We want what is best for the league and McNeese.”

Burckel himself will have a new role with the league. He will serve a two-year term as chair of the presidential group, it was announced Thursday at the end of the conference’s annual spring meetings.

“We have a big stake in the future of the Southland and we need to make sure we are a big part of what is going to take place,” Burckel said.

However, he maintains that this does not mean McNeese will not look elsewhere in the future. That includes a move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

“I would never say never to anything,” said Athletic Director Heath Schroyer. “We have to position ourselves to make our own decisions in the future and do what is best for us. We want to decide our future, not have others or circumstances dictate what we do.”

As for the Southland, the conference had a lot to discuss at the meeting and keeping those still in the league calm was a big part of the talks.

“Following a challenging year related to the pandemic, but also a very successful run of competitive and academic outcomes, the Southland’s administrative groups had a very productive week of meetings,” Southland Commissioner Tom Burnett said in a news release. “The membership is focused on future success and growth post-pandemic, and their work this week exemplified exactly that, ensuring our athletic programs continue to excel and serve the needs of their student-athletes.”

The conference made two big moves. First, a preseason league basketball tournament for both men and women will be played in Katy, Texas, after the new year. The SLC and Katy have one year left on their contract to play the postseason championship tournament at the Merrell Center.

After that there is movement toward having the regular-season champion host the postseason tournaments, or at least play them on a campus.

The Southland Basketball Tip-off will feature men’s and women’s teams playing three other randomly selected opponents on consecutive days. The games will not count in the league standings ahead of a 14-game home-and-away schedule. The event will feature a tournament format played out to places.

“I really like it,” said first-year McNeese men’s basketball coach John Aiken. “It is a great way to give our conference some attention and start the league. Great for the conference to have our own thing.”

This also could lead to the conference moving its championship tournaments to campus sites in the future.

“I think it is important that we play championships on campus,” Schroyer said. “That will maximize interest and would be good for our fans and communities. It will be best for athletes as well.”

With that in mind, the league’s baseball coaches came up with a new format for their championship starting next year. The Southland will play a tournament format with the top two seeds hosting three other teams in firstround double-elimination events. The first-round winners will advance to a best-of-3 series to determine the league’s NCAA automatic qualifier at the site of the highest-remaining seed the following weekend.

The league moved the baseball tournament back on campus this year, as it is currently being played at Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond.

“Playing on campus is absolute the right thing to do,” said McNeese head baseball coach Justin Hill. “We have proven that this weekend. The place is electric. It becomes like our own regional then super regional.

“I think it is important that we reward the teams that have stayed with the conference and having all six make the postseason for baseball is a great way to do it.”

The Southland is also considering bringing football media day back to Lake Charles. Sources have confirmed that the league is talking with the Golden Nugget Casino in hopes to host the event as early as this summer.

SLC Media Day used to take place in Lake Charles before the league moved it to Houston.

“That would make sense,” Schroyer said. “Lake Charles is the perfect place for the media day. We are right on the I-10 and in the center of the conference. It would be great for both the league and the city.”

””Southland ConferenceSouthland Conference

Local News

Transfer of Mallard Cove Golf Course to Chennault complete

Local News

Maplewood schools will remain closed Thursday

Local News

Kinder Future Farmers of America collect, deliver fuel to Lafourche Parish

Local Business News

Disaster assistance request for SW La. makes it to budget

Local Business News

Area LyondellBasell plant receives ISCC PLUS certification

Local Business News

When it comes to headwear, Anne Monlezun and Kevin Mattingly have got you covered

Local Business News

Elizabeth Jimney column: Building a website that works for you

Local Business News

Names in the News: People shaping the future of Lake Area business

Local Business News

Few things please Chloun more than delighting diners with authentic Middle Eastern cuisine

Local News

Nicholas expected to weaken to a depression overnight

Local News

Nicholas weakening as it moves toward SW La.

Local News

Update: Today’s weather-related closures and cancellations

Local News

Nicholas expected to stall over SW La. Wednesday

Local News

Nicholas upgraded to category 1 hurricane

Local News

Weather-related Tuesday closures, cancellations

Crime

Nine arrested in what authorities describe as ‘gang shooting’

Local News

Calcasieu leadership: Tropical Storm Nicholas should not be taken lightly

Local News

LC city offices closed, trash service canceled Tuesday

Local News

Temporary closure of FEMA’s LC Recovery Service Center

Local News

COVID testing, vaccine sites closed Tuesday-Wednesday

Local News

Allen schools will be virtual Tuesday

Local News

Nicholas could turn into a hurricane before making landfall

Local News

Clearing debris from drainage laterals massive, costly

Local News

All Jeff Davis schools will be open Monday