LAKE CHARLES — A program needing a reboot found a coach looking to do the same.
Friday McNeese State introduced Frank Wilson as the 17th head coach in its football history. He is the first African-American to hold the position at the university and only second in Southland Conference history.
“What’s important is we got the right man for the job,” McNeese President Dr. Daryl Burckel said. “We believe we did that in coach Wilson.”
This was the second time in just 13 months McNeese held such an event, as Wilson replaces Sterlin Gilbert, who left after one 7-5 season to be offensive coordinator at Power 5 Syracuse last Saturday.
Sources say Wilson has let go all but one coach on Gilbert’s staff. Landon Hoefer, who served as the interim head coach for a week and has been in the program for six years, is the only survivor.
Wilson inherits a program that won four of its last five games last year but missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season. McNeese hasn’t won a playoff game since 2002.
Wilson promises to return McNeese back to prominence.
“It has been done here and done right here at a very high level,” Wilson said. “We will get it done again.
“We are going to win. I can’t tell you when, but when we are good enough we will get there.”
Wilson became available in December when the University of Texas-San Antonio fired him after four years as its head coach.
Wilson posted a 19-29 record, losing its only bowl appearance. His team was just 7-17 the last two years after a 12-12 start.
“Every situation is different,” said the 46-year old Wilson, who before UTSA spent six seasons as the recruiting coordinator and associate head coach at LSU under Les Miles.
“I am not the same coach as I was four years ago,” he added. “You learn from each experience and use it at the next stop.”
Wilson still has two years remaining on his contract with UTSA, which will play him roughly a million dollars a season.
His contract with McNeese is for three years for around $200,000 per season.
Some of that may end up being deferred.
Gilbert owes the school $100,000 as part of his buyout for leaving with two years left on his contract.
“This is not about the money,” Wilson joked. “If it was about the money I would not be here.
“This job has some very unique traditions. We will get it back to the elite level.”
Wilson, a graduate of Nicholls State where he played running back, has also worked as an assistant coach at Ole Miss, Southern Mississippi and Tennessee. He also has experience coaching high school in his hometown of New Orleans, which could open up a new recruiting area for McNeese.
“When this job opportunity came, my agent reached out to me and he said ‘what do you think about it?’, and I had been entertaining different jobs at different levels, all the way up to the National Football League,” Wilson said.
“And I said ‘I want it.’ He said ‘well do you want to talk about the budget?’ I said ‘I want it’. He said ‘you want to talk about the facilities?’, I said ‘I want it.’ And he said ‘so I take it you want it?’ I said yes I do.”
Wilson takes on a program that for the first time is on academic suspension from the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Poor grades during Lance Guidry’s tenure as head coach finally caught up with McNeese, which received word of its postseason ban in December. Guidry was fired at the end of the 2018 season.
Wilson got the backing by one of the biggest names in college football right now, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.
“Frank is a great Louisiana man,” said Orgeron, whose son Cody is the starting quarterback at McNeese. “(Frank) was one of the best assistant coaches in LSU history and will do a great job for McNeese.”
Wilson said he planned to sit down with current Cowboy assistant coaches and make his decision on each on an individual basis.
“This is a magical place,” said Wilson.
The Cowboys don’t need a miracle to get back into the conference and national spotlight, but there is a lot of hard work ahead.
With national signing day just two weeks away, Wilson’s work begins right away.
Call it a short honeymoon.