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Southland Conference holds on to McNeese... at a price

"We're the captains now," McNeese president Daryl Burckel and AD Heath Schroyer told Southland membership.

People have always accused Texas of ruling the Big 12 like it was its own fiefdom. The Big Ten, the SEC, they all recognized that their best model of governance was the Senate: ruling via consensus, with a president to execute their will. In the Big 12 and the Southwest Conference before it, Texas was a self-appointed king, and its so-called peers demoted to mere court jesters.

True or not, that was the story. It's what set the first rounds of realignment off a decade ago, which started this current round. Texas hollowed out the Big 12 with its own ego, the story goes, pushing Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, then joined the SEC when the power balance it created became too large to ignore.

That's the round we're still on today, an earthquake whose aftershocks are now shaking the walls in the FCS.

As an aftershock of Texas (and Oklahoma) leaving its kingdom for the SEC, the Southland Conference has all but named McNeese State its own king.

The conference and the school jointly announced this week that McNeese will remain in the league -- with a few stipulations.

From 2023-26, the men's and women's basketball tournaments will be played at McNeese's facilities in Lake Charles, La. The baseball and softball tournaments will be in Lake Charles. Not only that, the football media days will be in Lake Charles through 2026, too.

"We remain committed to finding a path to FBS Football, and after evaluating several options, and a lengthy discussion with the newly-invigorated Southland Conference leadership team, we are excited about the commitment the SLC has made to the SWLA Community," McNeese President Daryl Burckel said. "This agreement better positions us to pursue our goal of becoming an FBS football institution, while providing much needed economic stimulus for our community."

McNeese's announcement includes the following flex:

-- Cowboy football has won more Southland games and titles than any other team.
-- Cowboy basketball has won more Southland games than any other team.
-- Cowboy baseball has won more Southland games than any other team.
-- Cowgirl softball has won more Southland games than any other team.

The Southland roster has been hollowed out with a Texodus of schools -- Lamar, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston and Abilene Christian -- leaving for the WAC. Sam Houston has since agreed to join Conference USA. 

The Southland now has eight schools (five in Louisiana, three in Texas) with Texas A&M-Commerce joining from Division II next summer, with more additions expected in the future. Only six schools among the present membership play football.

"McNeese's decision to stay in the Southland Conference is monumental and represents a consensus position which resulted from a collaborative effort with our Board of Directors," Southland Deputy Commissioner Chris Grant said. "We value the strong working relationships that have been reaffirmed during this process among the conference members. Today's actions represent the first in a series of steps to expand the conference and ensure we continue to provide an elite student-athlete experience for our membership."

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