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October 5, 2006

McNeese fires Tate after only 4 games

Bearkats coach shocked by news

Southland Conference football action hasn’t even started yet, but one of the league’s head coaches is already out of a job.

Longtime McNeese State coach Tommy Tate was forced to resign Wednesday by university president Robert Hebert just days after the Cowboys lost to South Dakota State 20-17 at home.

Offensive coordinator Matt Viator will serve as the Cowboys’ interim head coach for the rest of the season.

“I want to thank McNeese for the opportunity it has given me for the last 27 years,” Tate said in a press release. “It has been a privilege to have coached here at McNeese. It has never been a job, never been a business. It has been a privilege.

“It’s a privilege to play here at McNeese. When you put on that uniform there is a lot of pride. I knew that that privilege could be taken away, but that is part of the coaching profession.”

McNeese was tabbed the preseason favorite to win the Southland Conference this fall, but the Cowboys have struggled through their first four games, going 1-3. Two of those losses came at the hands of NCAA Division I-A Toledo and South Florida, while the Cowboys’ only win was against an NAIA school, West Virginia Tech.

Saturday’s loss to South Dakota State, McNeese’s first at Cowboy Stadium since 2004, proved to be the enough for the university to head in a new direction.

“I regret this has happened during the course of a season,” Hebert told the Lake Charles American Press. “But I believe it is in the best interest of our program.”

The news came as a shock to Sam Houston State head coach Todd Whitten, especially since it came only four games into the season.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news,” Whitten said Thursday. “Anytime that happens to a coach, a friend, it saddens you. I don’t think it is the best thing for players to fire a coach during week four. I think Tommy is a good coach, and I respect him.”

Tate has been part of the McNeese coaching staff since 1979 and took over as head coach in 2000. He guided the Cowboys to a 49-26 record and won three consecutive SLC titles from 2001-03. In 2002, the Cowboys reached the Division I-AA national championship game before falling to Western Kentucky.

McNeese will begin the search for a new head coach at the end of the season.

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