The Goff era begins, McNeese invests in revival
Posted at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 21, 2022
youLike the cowboys of old or in the movies, Gary Goff didn’t ride into town on the back of his trusty horse to save the day.
No, Goff was flown to Lake Charles in the comfort of a private jet.
His arrival was greeted by McNeese State officials, cheerleaders, a few band members, and even the school’s mascot, Rowdy, despite the late notice and it being a Sunday night during the winter vacation.
With the richest coaching contract in school history in his pocket, Goff is the most important face of McNeese’s athletic department.
He’s the newest guy set to revive a struggling football program and restore it to national prominence. Oh yeah, and there’s a little thing for the Cowboys to make the jump to the Football Bowl subdivision and the cash rewards that come with such a leap.
It’s a challenge that the new gunslinger in town is up to.
“We’ll win championships and make you proud,” Goff proclaimed.
Well, McNeese hasn’t done that since 2002. In fact, the Cowboys haven’t won a playoff game since that year and haven’t made the playoffs since 2015.
So the jump seems a bit extreme.
But for Goff, it’s not a leap of faith. Confidently, he thinks he can do it, as does his boss, athletic director Heath Schroyer, who tagged Goff has his biggest and “most important hire” of his career.
“He’s the right guy for our football program and this community,” Schroyer said. “He is perfect and I know he can transform us. We will win with him.
Goff doesn’t come across as the type of hero you see in cowboy movies despite the boots he wore at his first press conference. He is not the John Wayne type, but rather short in stature.
Still, he seems better in the saddle for these Cowboys, better than those who came before him.
“It’s his passion and energy that makes you believe,” linebacker Brayden Adams said. “He’s open and someone you can talk to.”
Goff is the fourth new head coach since the start of 2016, but he is completely different from his three immediate predecessors.
He doesn’t bring the bravado of Lance Guidry, the aloof arrogance of Sterlin Gilbert or the LSU title resume of Frank Wilson. Goff presents himself as an ordinary guy, ready to do a job that happens to be that of coaching football.
“What I really like about Coach Goff is that he’s the kind of guy you just want to have a beer with,” Schroyer said.
Goff looks like a guy who believes in purpose. He knows what his job is and he has a plan on how to do it.
After building a bottom-up program at Tiffin University Division II and then moving into the division’s top flight at Valdosta State, Goff comes to McNeese rising through the coaching ranks.
With the others, it looked like the moment they got the Cowboys’ top job, they were looking for their next career move. Guidry lasted three seasons before his contract was renewed, Gilbert took off after one season and Wilson lasted two.
It’s hard to get back into the national spotlight when the captain keeps jumping ship.
Goff said that was not the case for him.
“I’m going to be here for the long haul,” he said.
Then again, that might be easier to do when you have the biggest contract in program history and a deal that could last up to five years.
Still, Goff took the job, just as he did when he took over a Tiffin program and built from scratch to the Division II playoffs in eight years. This rebuild looks simple compared to that.
“We have a plan in place but you have to change the culture,” Goff said. “The first thing is you tell the players it’s not about me, it’s about us. It’s their team. They have to buy into that.
According to early reports, the Cowboys did.
“We went through a program on how to be a good leader,” said senior Calvin Barkat. “It’s about being accountable, not just to myself, to others around me, and holding them accountable to us.”
It hasn’t all been easy. Some players left the team, others were asked to leave. With 58 newcomers on board, the roster has been replenished with guys Goff says “want to be here”.
Goff is unquestionably a perfectionist. He will fix papers in a pile while answering interview questions. He will stop to pick up the trash on the floor and he will look for a perfect practice.
But what he demands seems to be more the pursuit of perfection than the expectation of it. In other words, he wants to see the effort while understanding that the perfect game is nearly impossible to play.
What he wants is for his Cowboys to train and play with a sense of purpose and pride, knowing that it is their individual actions that ultimately decide the team’s outcome.
And he wants them to own the actions and the consequences.
Maybe then they can all go off into the sunset after restoring the McNeese football program to its former place on the national stage.