Wilson adds Garza to coach safeties

Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press

With a position to fill, Frank Wilson turned to an old teammate to fill a void.

The McNeese State head coach announced he has hired Willie Mack Garza, a veteran journeyman assistant, to fill the Cowboys’ staff opening coaching safeties.

Garza brings more than two decades of coaching experience — that includes a 2016 stop at Lamar — to the program, but also comes with baggage.

Garza, who has coached at all levels of college football during his career, has twice resigned from jobs under a cloud. The first time after recruiting violations and most recently in 2019 just days before he was charged for DUI and speeding while coaching at the University of Wyoming.

The recruiting violations occurred while he was on Lane Kiffin’s staff at Tennessee when it was revealed by Yahoo! Sports that he had a relationship with Texas-based scout Willie Lyles.

Still, McNeese head coach Frank Wilson stands behind Garza, who he worked with on that Tennessee staff.

“Willie Mack is a guy who brings a wealth of knowledge to our staff,” Wilson said Friday in a statement released by the school. “He’s been in big-game situations, coaching in national championships and in the SEC. He has a calm about him and fits in with our staff very well.

“He doesn’t have a big ego, is selfless and works relentlessly. He cares about the well-being of the studentathletes.”

Garza was also given a threeyear show-cause order by an NCAA infractions committee for ”unethical conduct,” according to the website Go Vols. It is, in effect, the stiffest penalty the NCAA can impose. That hurt Garza’s chances at getting a job at any NCAA school.

He was at Southern Cal when the NCAA ruled on his infractions and he left that program for what he called at the time “personal reasons.” This is not the first time McNeese has gone down this road. Former head coach Matt Viator hired Lance Guidry, who had a DUI on his record, as defensive coordinator. Guidry later became the McNeese head coach for three seasons and is now the defensive coordinator at Marshall. Garza essentially replaces Grady Brown, the defensive coordinator who just over two weeks ago left the program for the University of Houston. Brown has since moved on to the Pittsburgh Steelers, forcing McNeese to scramble just days before last weekend’s season opener at Tarleton State. It worked out as the Cowboys won in double overtime. Brown’s leaving also meant the Cowboys needed to find a new defensive play caller. Deron Wilson called the defense in the first game last week, a 40-37 double-overtime win at Tarleton State.

Willie Mack Garza File

2021 — McNeese State, safeties 

2019 — Wyoming, safeties 

2019 — Texas A&M Commerce, defensive secondary 

2018 — Dixie State, defensive coordinator/defensive secondary 

2017 — Dixie State, defensive secondary 

2016 — Lamar, cornerbacks 

2015 — Prairie View A&M, linebackers/special teams coordinator 

2013-14 — Pearl River (Miss.) Community College, defensive coordinator/defensive secondary 

2010 — Southern Cal, defensive secondary 

2009 — Tennessee, defensive secondary 

2006-08 — North Dakota State, defensive coordinator/defensive secondary 

2005 — North Dakota State, defensive secondary 

2004 — Tarleton State, defensive secondary 

2001-03 — Texas Christian, cornerbacks 

1997-2000 — Western Michigan, defensive secondary 

1994-96 — Texas, graduate assistant coachWillie Mack Garza has been hired by McNeese State head coach Frank Wilson to coach safeties.

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