Southland notebook: Abilene, UIW can play for postseason, now

Published 7:35 pm Friday, July 21, 2017

HOUSTON — Adam Dorrel posted a 76-8 record and won three NCAA Division II championships in six seasons at Northwest Missouri State. During that time Abilene Christian transitioned from Division II and Division I, remaining ineligible to compete in a postseason playoff in any sport the past four years.

The Wildcats may have gone 24-32 the past five seasons under the now-fired Ken Collums, but just being eligible to play for the playoffs means something to Dorrel’s new team.

“There’s no question having a chance to compete for a conference championship has bearing on our team,” the 42-year-old said, months after leaving his native Maryville, Missouri — where Northwest is based — to take over Abilene Christian. “This is our first year to do it. If we play hard and get lucky, maybe win a couple of games we’re not supposed to win, we might have a shot at the title.”

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Incarnate Word similarly has struggled some in the Southland Conference during its transition, but this is the first year both the Cardinals and Wildcats can try and carry their football seasons into Thanksgiving.

Sixth-year UIW coach Larry Kennan said time and patience have been the biggest factors in the transition process.

“We have to be patient and not expect miracles overnight,” said Kennan, 73, the former Lamar head coach (1979-81) who has gone 19-36 in San Antonio. “If we can live through the first three weeks [three road games at Fresno State, Sacramento State and Stephen F. Austin], we’ll be OK. We’re interested in winning every game, but more importantly, we’re working on our student-athletes becoming great men after graduation. We expect to win more games from last year.”

Kennan’s Cardinals went 3-8 and 3-6 in the Southland last year.

Dorrel is undergoing his own D-II to D-I transition, just in time for the start of the Wildcats’ full-fledged D-I status.

For one, he’s managing a team that offers 63 scholarships instead of the Division II maximum of 36. And then, there are the rules of recruiting in Division I he’s had to adjust to.

“I don’t think people realize how many more rules are in place from Division II to Division I,” Dorrel said. “Literally, every day, I learn from our APR (Academic Progress Rate) coordinator.”

Division I athletic programs must adhere to APR standards, which measure each athlete’s progress toward a degree and indicate his or her retention within a program.

For two, Dorrel has left a small-school powerhouse in his hometown to recruit in the giant hotbed known as Texas.

“Recruiting a new state has been challenge,” he said. “If you be honest with high school football coaches, show them exactly what you do and how you are going to do it.”


Sporting new looks

Abilene Christian is boasting new home digs, scheduled to officially open Sept. 16.

Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium will host the Wildcats’ first on-campus games in 58 years and seat 9,500, with room for up to 12,000. The field is named after primary benefactors Mark and April Anthony, graduates of ACU.

“The stadium is a block away from our office, so it’s a game-changer for us,” first-year head coach Adam Dorrel said. “It gives us somewhere to call home. We were able to take our first recruit and show them around. Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium has been a blessing for our program and our university.”

The Wildcats previously played home games at Shotwell Stadium.

At Nicholls State, Guidry Stadium rolled out new turf in time for the university’s graduation in May. The Geo-Surfaces installed product is marketed as the safest in the country.

Colonels tight ends Stephen LeBouef and defensive back Christian Boutte touted the new surface during Thursday’s Media Day.

“You can sleep on it,” Boutte said.


Guidry: Seay bouncing back

McNeese State linebacker Sage Seay played in only five games last season as a sophomore. The former Nederland quarterback had been hampered with patellar tendon and thigh injuries, but coach Lance Guidry said Seay is coming back.

“He’s a very good leader, inspirational,” Guidry said, noting Seay has roots in Hackberry, Louisiana, 28 miles southwest of Lake Charles. “He could very well be our starter.”

Guidry added Seay could move to the offense and see some time at tight end. The two-time letterman stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 205 pounds.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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