“The best is yet to come!”
That was the message McNeese Cowboys basketball head coach Will Wade relayed to a packed Kleckley Room at the Legacy Center on Tuesday afternoon after Director of Athletics Heath Schroyer announced the signing of Wade to a new five-year contract that will pay him a record $700,000 per year plus incentives. The new contract is pending approval by the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors.
The deal also includes a buyout of $1.25 million if he leaves before August 31 of this year and $1 million should he leave McNeese prior to Aug. 31 of 2025. It then falls to $500,000 after the third year and is also $500,000 should either Shroyer or McNeese Executive Vice President Dr. Wade Rousse leave McNeese, and $200,000 if both leave.
Wade, who was named the Cowboys’ new head coach last March, has turned around a program that lost a record number of games last season, to historic heights so far this year, including the best start in school history and national recognition from both college basketball Top 25 polls.
“I couldn’t be more ecstatic to sign Coach Wade to this new contract,” said Schroyer, who himself has guided the McNeese Athletic Department to historic high financial levels. “He and I have had a lot of conversations over the last month and I’m glad we were able to get this done.
“When he and I talked last year, I promised him when the program was turned around and flipped, I would rip up the current contract and give him a new one. I did just that and I couldn’t be happier to do it.”
Wade missed the first 10 games of the 2023-24 season due to an NCAA suspension. During that time, his two assistants – Brandon Chambers and Vernon Hamilton, guided the Cowboys to a 7-3 record that included a season-opening win at VCU.
Wade made his McNeese debut on December 13 at home against Southern Miss, leading the Cowboys to a 19-point victory. That began a 14-game winning streak which became the longest in the NCAA.
“I am very proud and humbled to be the head coach at McNeese,” said Wade. “We’re with you and fighting for you every day. It takes a lot of people to make this program work. It’s not just me. I have a phenomenal staff. It doesn’t work without them. We have tremendous players and they make it happen. And with that, we’ve got phenomenal alignment and commitment from our administration.”
“What Coach has meant and the impact he has made on this program, University and community, has been nothing short of amazing,” said Schroyer. “He and this program has impacted so many people in this area it’s immeasurable. Under his leadership, we have become nationally relevant in men’s basketball and the McNeese brand has become stronger and more recognizable regionally and nationally. There is simply no price you can put on that type of brand recognition.”
Dr. Rousse noted during the press conference that following McNeese’s win over Michigan on December 29, school social media accounts over all its platforms received over eight million impressions while the admission’s page on the school’s website had over 600 meaningful visits.
Schroyer referenced the state college athletics is in today is more business-like than it ever has.
“As the athletic director, I have run, and will continue to run athletics like a business because that’s what college athletics is today,” he said. “There are scoreboards and bottom lines in college athletics and we all get held accountable to both.
“Men’s basketball has always been a revenue generating sport for our department. However, this year we have already generated more than five times the revenue from last year. We are simply reinvesting into this program which will in turn help our entire department continue to grow financially.”
McNeese leads the Southland Conference in average home attendance with 3,158 per game while its 71.4% capacity rate is rated among the top 40 capacity percentages in the nation. McNeese sold out in three of its 12 home games this season while in five conference games, has two sellouts and averaging just under 4,000 fans in the 4,200-capacity Legacy Center.
“I’ve never been reactive in my career and have always tried to be proactive,” said Schroyer. “Signing coach to this contract before the end of the season was important to me and illustrates how proactive I wanted to be. I wanted him, his staff, his family, our players, and our recruits, to know that we’re committed to all of them and committed to continue to build on our recent successes.
“We have a lot of basketball to play and I couldn’t be happier to have this done at this time.”
McNeese returns to the Legacy Center on Saturday against second place Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in what will be the biggest home game for McNeese in over 20 years.
Quote from Chris Grant, Southland Conference Commissioner:
“On behalf of the Southland, I want to congratulate Will on his contract extension. We are thrilled he will continue being a special part of our esteemed SLC coaching fraternity of men’s basketball coaches.
“This past year, our men’s basketball coaches have been dedicated to working with the Conference office to present creative initiatives and best practices to return the Southland Basketball Brand to its prominence as a thriving mid-major basketball conference, and Will has played a large part in leading those conversations during our head coaches meetings. Will and Heath’s commitment to doing their part in elevating our basketball brand and prioritizing the student-athlete experience for all SLC basketball student-athletes is commendable. McNeese’s continued investment aligns perfectly with our collective aspirations that our programs are becoming destinations, which provides an excellent outlook for our conference. Together, we rise, profoundly impacting the Southland student-athletes and our prospering communities.”
“The best is yet to come!”