McNeese fourth in preseason poll

Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press

In the unknown season that is about to begin, McNeese State finds itself selected to finish right in the middle of the Southland Conference football race.

Of the seven league teams playing this spring, the Cowboys were picked for fourth place by league coaches and sports information directors, receiving one first-place vote.

Defending champion Nicholls State received half of the first-place votes and was selected first with 67 points. Sam Houston State placed second with 65 points and six first-place votes.

For McNeese, just getting on the field is somewhat of a minor miracle. After two hurricanes ripped through Lake Charles last summer and fall, there were questions about whether the Cowboys would be able to play this spring.

“We always knew we would play football,” said first-year Cowboys head coach Frank Wilson, who, despite being hired a year ago, is still looking to make his debut.

“This is what we do,” Wilson said. “We are looking to hopefully bring back a bit of normalcy and give the community some hope and some distractions.”

The Cowboys are not eligible for postseason play. They are serving a postseason ban due to a substandard NCAA Academic Progress Report rating dating to the 2018 season. McNeese is also coming off back-to-back five-loss seasons.

Coincidentally, the SLC poll came out the same day the last coach to lead the Cowboys to the postseason joined the staff of rival Louisiana-Lafayette.

Matt Viator, who guided McNeese to a 10-1 season in 2015 and the SLC title before leaving to become the head coach at Louisiana-Monroe, will join the Ragin’ Cajuns program as a quality control member according to reports Tuesday.

Viator was 19-39 during his five seasons in Monroe. He was fired after an 0-10 campaign last fall. He was replaced by former Auburn head coach Terry Bowden.

During his 10 seasons as the Cowboys’ head coach, McNeese won four SLC titles and finished second twice. He posted a 78-33 record, including a 54-18 mark in the SLC.

However, Viator’s teams were 0-5 in the playoffs.McNeese sports

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