Southland begins work on schedule

Effort to bolster playoff chances

<p class="p1">A season after McNeese State was left out of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff bracket, the Southland Conference has begun considering options to maximize the number of teams it can get into the postseason. </p><p class="p3">The biggest suggestion mentioned during last week’s SLC Media Day in Houston was to decrease by one the number of conference games played by each team to eight. </p><p class="p3">The league moved to a nine-game schedule in 2015 while pushing a now-failed proposal to get a 12th game permanently added to the FCS schedule, and now SLC Commissioner Tom Burnett said it may be restricting its teams. </p><p class="p3">As it stands, the only time FCS teams can schedule a 12th game is when there are 13 weeks between Labor Day weekend and Thanksgiving. </p><p class="p3">Burnett said the SLC could be back to an eight-game schedule as soon as the 2021 season. The league is already scheduled through 2020.</p><p class="p3">“The (nine-game schedule) has limited some of our nonconference opportunities against FCS competition, which the football committee takes into consideration greatly,” Burnett said as he opened media day speaking from the podium. “We will soon present to the membership 2021 and 2022 schedules to have eight conference games. We’re going to see how that works in the future.”</p><p class="p3">Burnett seemed as concerned and confused as McNeese staffers that they missed out on one of the 24 playoff spots despite a 9-2 season and finishing No. 18 in the FCS coaches poll. </p><p class="p3">With three teams that included conference champion Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State and Nicholls State earning postseason bids, the SLC tied for the third-most last season with the Big Sky and the Southern Conference. The Missouri Valley Conference led the subdivision with five teams and the Colonial Athletic Association had four teams.</p><p class="p3">The three SLC teams combined to go 1-3 in the playoffs. Nicholls State lost at home in the first round. Central Arkansas had a first-round bye and lost at home in the second round. League runner-up Sam Houston State had a first-round bye, won its second-round game and lost in the semifinals to eventual national champion North Dakota.</p><p class="p3">“We’re not going to complain about getting three teams in the playoffs,” Burnett said. “We’ve done that a few times recently. To be fair, we’re getting exactly what we need. But McNeese belonged in the playoffs considering all they did wrong was lose on the last play of the game at Nicholls (in the season opener), which was a playoff team.”</p><p class="p3">McNeese’s nonconference schedule last season consisted of two games, one against Southwestern Athletic Conference opponent and the other against Division II’s Florida Tech. McNeese head coach Lance Guidry has previously speculated the lack of a well-known FCS team or guarantee game against a Football Bowl Subdivision team on the schedule hurt the Cowboys’ résumé going into the postseason.</p><p class="p3">An extra nonconference game, he now says, would give the Cowboys more flexibility when scheduling to help make them as attractive as possible to the playoff selection committee. But if you really want to know his opinion, Guidry said he doesn’t feel comfortable leaving it up to the committee. </p><p class="p3">“We pride ourselves on the fact that, since 1990, there’s only been one class that has come through McNeese without a ring,” Guidry said. “We’re trying to get another ring and our 15th conference championship in the Southland.”</p>””<p>Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett. (Associated Press)</p>

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