Building a Winning Culture // Nicholls Athletics

by Leroy Triggs

Nicholls State University has come a long way to make its sports programs more successful — from focusing on good coaching, more rigorous academic standards to improving facilities.

“Everybody understands that athletics are bigger than just a Saturday. It’s what can a Saturday do for the institution. We’re a marketing outreach for the school,” says Athletic Director Matt Roan.

The institution experienced a revival in athletics in the 2017-2018 school year that continues this year. In 2017-2018, the football team made an FCS playoff appearance; men’s basketball won the regular season title; women’s basketball won the Southland Conference Tournament title; and softball won the regular season title. In 2019, the football team is ranked as a Top 25 FCS team, and is favored to repeat as Southland Conference Champions.

Part of creating a winning culture is good coaching and believing in success. In football, the Colonels finished (8-3) and third in the Southland Conference in the 2017 season, earning their first playoff appearance since 2005. The next season, the Colonels won the Southland Conference title and their first playoff game since 1986. Quarterback Chase Fourcade says the job head coach Tim Rebowe had done was phenomenal.

“From the beginning we have always had the mentality of ‘why can’t Nicholls win’, because we know we had the talent to be the best and we’re motivated to go show it,” Fourcade says.

In women’s basketball, head coach DoBee Plasiance says the team advancing to the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament could not have been possible without the student-athletes buying into the program and striving for excellence.

For the women’s basketball team, it had to build itself up from the bottom as she became head coach before the 2008-2009 season. Plasiance says her goal of helping the team win was only possible through help from above to try and change the culture.

“I believed we could win when I took the job but I knew the only way we could win is through the grace of God and if we set standards that we don’t even bend on,” Plaisance says. “All I could do is give them a vision because at first I had nothing to show them. They wanted to come to Nicholls and make a difference.”

In addition to improving the teams play on the field, coaches like Angel Santiago, Nicholls softball head coach, says raising his team’s overall GPA has contributed to overall success. Nicholls has won the top 10 percent award for two years in a row, applauding teams for their excellence on the field and in the classroom.

“When we first came to Nicholls the team GPA was at 2.75 now its at 3.4. That gives us a lot of respect from the professors because they know our players care about their grades.”

While teams are winning more, Athletic Director Roan says it isn’t possible without continued improvements to many of the teams’ buildings and facilities. Since 2016, Roan has worked to increase the budget for Nicholls Athletics, and it has grown almost $3 million from 2016-2019.

“When I came (to Nicholls), the facilities needed to be upgraded, which helps when you’re trying to change a culture and mindset that winning can happen at Nicholls.”

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