LAKE CHARLES — Before the McNeese State football team begins its Southland Conference schedule in the hopes of capturing its first league championship since 2009, the Cowboys will face their toughest test of the season.
McNeese opens the season against LSU at 6:30 p.m. September 5 in Tiger Stadium, a venue Cowboys coach Matt Viato r referred to as “first-class.”
“It’s a huge challenge, going into a place like Tiger Stadium,” Viator said during SLC Media Day on Wednesday. “It’s a hard place to play in, especially when you’re playing an extremely talented football team.
“But we’re excited. It’s a great opportunity for our program to play on a big stage against one of the best teams in the country.”
LSU took the only meeting between the teams with a 32-10 win in 2010. The Cowboys forced two early turnovers to take a 10-7 advantage, but the Tigers locked down defensively and rode a potent rushing attack to victory.
Sciambra a Colonel
First-year Nicholls State coach Tim Rebowe isn’t opposed to taking players that can help him continue to build a program that hasn’t won a game since October 2013 — even baseball players.
Former LSU outfielder Chris Sciambra, who last month completed a four-year career with the Tigers, will compete with three other kickers next month when the Colonels open training camp.
Sciambra, who was an accomplished kicker at Catholic High in Baton Rouge, joined the LSU football team last season but didn’t play a down.
With a year of eligibility remaining, he decided to give it a try at Nicholls.
“One of the baseball coaches contacted me during the spring and said he may be interested in coming to kick for us,” Rebowe said. “When the season was over and they finished in Omaha, he contacted us and we got his release.”
Rebowe is hoping some of the success Sciambra had with Paul Mainieri’s baseball team will carry over to his new teammates at Nicholls State.
“He’s such a mature young man; I think he’s already graduated,” Rebowe said. “I think he can bring some of the leadership skills, some of the things he learned and how they were successful over there at baseball.
“In the locker room, he’s not a ‘rah-rah’ guy,” he said, “but hopefully he can rub off on some of the players in there.”
UNO talking football
Amid more talk of the University of New Orleans reinstating its football program, SLC Commissioner Tom Burnett said Wednesday the league will stand by whatever decision the school makes.
Burnett said UNO President Peter Fos has been interested in adding football as a varsity sport since his school agreed to join the conference in August 2012.
Burnett pointed to SLC members Southeastern Louisiana and Lamar University, who both reinstated football in recent years, as blueprints for creating a successful football culture.
“Football will always work for the Southland Conference,” Burnett said. “However, we really need it to work for that local university and community. As we have seen in Beaumont and Hammond, the return of football has been tremendous. We certainly would want that to work the same for UNO if it chose to do that.”
UNO and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are the only SLC schools that don’t have a football program.
SLC sports information directors awarded Kevin Gore, the longtime sports editor at the Nacogdoches (Texas) Daily Sentinel, was named the 2015 Louis Bonnette Sports Media Award at the media day.
Bonnette, who was the SID at McNeese State for 46 years, is the father of LSU SID Michael Bonnette.
The elder Bonnette’s other son, Matthew, followed in his father’s footsteps by taking over the same position at McNeese in 2012.
Louis Bonnette is a member of the Southland Conference Hall of Honor and College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame.