Southland Conference Commissioner Chris Grant, as well as McNeese Representatives Discuss the SLC Tournament Extension

Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 10:14 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - On Tuesday it was announced that the Southland Conference will hold the Men’s and Women’s Basketball conference tournaments at McNeese’s Legacy Center through 2029, extending the contract that originally expired following the 2026 tournaments. On Wednesday, Southland Conference Commissioner Chris Grant, as well as McNeese State University President Dr. Daryl Burckel, Director of Athletics Heath Schroyer, Men’s Basketball Head Coach Will Wade, and Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lynn Kennedy met with the media inside the Legacy Center to discuss the decision.

“I couldn’t be more ecstatic, not only for our conference, but for the city of Lake Charles,” said Commissioner Grant. “We had been setting out our mission for what we wanted to establish once I became commissioner all along, and in partnership with Dr. Burckel, and Heath (schroyer) and McNeese State University, and not only rebuilding this community but doing it in a way that also amplifies the efforts of our conference and what we’re doing for the student-athlete experience. I think we were all witnesses last year to the phenomenal experience we had here in the Legacy Center, first-class facility was number one, and two, we wanted to create a destination, and you don’t have to look any further than Lake Charles.”

“Having the basketball tournament here has a big economic impact, it’s good for our area,” said Dr. Burckel. “But also, we had some great concessions negotiated our way, after the storm, and staying in the conference, and being a good corporate sponsor with the rest of our institutions, we feel as though it was good to give up some of those other championships and put them back into play with the rest of the conference, and having this as the concession with those, makes this a very good deal for McNeese.”

“At the end of the day, this community deserves it,” said Schroyer. “Every decision that we’ve made as a department, and as a university, has been to enhance this community. Southwest Louisiana has been through a lot, so for us to be able to bring 4-5 million dollars for the next six years into this community, and to be on linear-ESPN three times a year from right here at the Legacy Center, is something that you really can’t put a price tag on. As happy as we are for our student-athletes, and for our conference, I’m more happy for our community, the small business owners, the hotels, the restaurants, everyone is going to benefit from this agreement, and the extension of this contract.”

After the tournaments were held in Lake Charles for the first time in March of this year, the stats that came out of it were surprising to the league as 43% of attendees for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were non-Louisiana residents, and Commissioner Grant says that’s part of the reason the Southland Conference wants to keep it at the Legacy Center.

“Lake Charles is the most central location and the heart of the Southland Conference. Some people might take that from the outside looking in and say everything is going to McNeese, well it’s a community play. We’re also providing access to our other university communities to a championship event that they haven’t had in previous years, you had to really debate whether to take a flight or wait for your team to make March Madness and follow them there, but now you can get in the car and in one gas tank get back home that night, or take advantage of all the great things to do here in Lake Charles, and we can provide them that experience,” said Grant.

For McNeese, the news is great; they get a better chance than anyone to make the NCAA Tournament as long as they make it into the Southland Conference Tournament, but hosting the tournament means nothing if they don’t win, at least that’s the mentality of Schroyer, and head coaches, Will Wade and Lynn Kennedy.

“We need to win. At the end of the day, I’ve said this publicly, I’ve said it to our coaches, the next three to five years for all of our programs, this is our window, and we need to win. We need to win games, we need to win championships, and we need to put ourselves in a position to win championships, that is the expectation here. We have everything that we need to have for us to be extremely successful at this level,” said Schroyer.

“We better win,” said Wade. “It’s great, but we’ve got to come in the top two of the league, you don’t just automatically get the double-bye, I think the league is set up in a way where it gives the best teams the best chance to get to the tournament, and I think giving a double-bye gives your best two teams an opportunity to get to the NCAA Tournament where you can get a good seed, and you can maybe pull an upset, and the school makes money, the league makes money, and the world goes round. So, I think being able to play here for six years is certainly exciting, I think it’s exciting for our community, I think it’s exciting for our fans, and I hope there are 4,000 McNeese fans there.”

“As everyone has talked about, the community is first, and rebuilding the community, so I think it’s great for Southwest Louisiana,” said Kennedy. “For McNeese to have our Legacy Center put on display, really for the entire nation, and potentially the world, and last year was maybe the best event that I’ve been a part of. What the conference did as far as branding, it looked like a completely different arena, but I think that’s great for McNeese, and I think it’s great motivation for our teams too, we’ve got to win. To get ourselves in the top two I think we saw last year on the women’s side that one through eight can win it, and I think it’s very competitive again this year with all the teams, and who they have coming back, so every day we’re pushing ourselves to get to that championship podium.”

For the full press conference with Dr. Burckel, Commissioner Grant, Heath Schroyer, Coach Wade, and Coach Kennedy, click here.