Friday, September 30

Cowboys football headed for Hammond

By Gary Laney
American Press

McNeese State's displaced fall sports teams have found homes at various sites.

The Cowboys football team will practice and stay at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond until they are able to return to the Lake Charles campus, athletics director Sonny Watkins said Friday.

Also at SLU will be the Cowgirls' soccer team. The volleyball and tennis teams will stay and practice at Louisiana-Lafayette.

"We appreciate the effort these schools are making for us," athletics director Sonny Watkins said.

McNeese's fall teams were left without a livable campus and with damaged facilities after Hurricane Rita ripped through Lake Charles early on the morning of Sept. 24.

Watkins said that while these teams will stay and practice at other schools, they will not attend class. McNeese has a goal of re-opening the campus and completing its fall semester, Watkins said.

"They won't be going to class," he said.

The football team will report to Hammond Monday and begin practicing Tuesday, athletics spokesman Louis Bonnette said.

Watkins also said that while the football team will practice at Hammond, it won't necessarily play home games there. The Cowboys don't have another home game scheduled until Oct. 15, their Southland Conference opener against Stephen F. Austin.

"There are a few places we might play that," he said. "But probably not Hammond."

Cowboy Stadium will probably not be an option, at least for the SFA game. McNeese's home field suffered significant damage to light poles and its press box and the field, located below ground level in an embanked area, is filled with 3-4 feet of murky water.

McNeese has had three home games cancelled this season, two because of Rita and one after Hurricane Katrina compelled Southern to call off the Sept. 3 season opener at Lake Charles. Northwestern Oklahoma State was scheduled to be in Lake Charles Sept. 24, the day of the storm. Southern Utah was scheduled to be in Lake Charles Saturday.

McNeese and SLC rival Lamar, which does not play football, both took direct hits from Rita, a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

As a result, the Southland has lost 13 conference volleyball games, one conference soccer game, eight football games and two cross country meets with SLC participants.

The SLC took the following actions Friday to deal with the storm's aftermath:
-- In volleyball, the conference will not reschedule the canceled league matches.The regular season champion will be determined by conference win percentage.
-- Athletic directors agreed to improvise to schedule "home" matches for Lamar and McNeese, both currently without homes.
-- The league volleyball tournament, scheduled for Nov. 18-20 in Arlington, Texas,will be expanded from six teams to the top eight regular-season finishers. While the conference has taken steps to address the problem in volleyball, there are issues in football.

Unless McNeese fills its current Oct. 8 open date, it will finish with eight games played. The NCAA requires seven wins against Division I-AA opponents for a team to get an at-large berth to the NCAA playoffs.

Unless that rule is waived in regards to McNeese, the 1-1 Cowboys could not possibly earn an at-large berth. A 6-0 conference record would give them the required wins, but they would have the automatic berth anyway. Any loss in coference would leave McNeese with no more than six wins.

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