After a disastrous 2-10 season, 2015 was a tough year for Louisiana-Monroe fans. There might be some optimism in the future with Matt Viator as the Warhawks’ new coach, though.
Bringing in a winning attitude and strong in-state recruiting ties, Viator may be the jumpstart ULM needs after a three-year downturn.
Viator, who spent the last 10 years as head coach at McNeese State, was introduced as the new head coach on Tuesday. He led the Cowboys to a 78-33 record and had McNeese average eight wins per season in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
In 2015, Viator led the Cowboys to a 10-0 regular season and the Southland Conference championship. However, McNeese fell to Sam Houston State in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
Conversely, after a strong 2012 season and an Independence Bowl berth, ULM has won only 12 of its last 37 games the last three years under head coach Todd Berry, who was let go last month after a loss to Texas State.
Viator has coached high school football in Louisiana since the 1980s and has strong ties to a lot of the high schools in the state. Getting that in-state talent, as well as recruits from Texas and Arkansas, should be his main focus as he tries to upgrade the talent at ULM.
At his introductory press conference, Viator mentioned his success with bringing in junior college transfers who could immediately contribute to his team at McNeese, and said that he would bring that philosophy to ULM.
“I want to get out and recruit the best student-athletes we can,” Viator said. “We are a little bit behind right now, but we’re certainly going to catch up and work all through the break here to try and get back in the direction that we need to go there.”
Viator’s offensive scheme should be a boost to ULM as well. This year, McNeese averaged 398.7 yards per game this season, while ULM averaged 310.8 yards per game, last in the Sun Belt.
— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) December 15, 2015
Another key factor in why ULM went with Viator is that he has wins over three current Sun Belt teams in his 10 years at McNeese, including wins over ULM’s bitter rival, Louisiana-Lafayette. Also, Viator’s teams did hang with some FBS teams in the last few years. McNeese put a 53-21 beatdown on South Florida in 2013 and almost pulled out a huge upset at Nebraska in 2014. The Cornhuskers scored a touchdown in the final minute to pull out the win, 31-24.
Winning on the road at a Power Five conference team’s stadium is not a need for Viator at ULM, but being competitive will be, especially since the Warhawks will take trips to Oklahoma and Auburn in 2016. ULM needs to play these types of games to fund the program, but Viator must also find a way to keep his team from getting blown out in each one of them.
Viator should bring in a new attitude to a program that may not have the money or notoriety that the other FBS teams in the state have. But his ability to find talented players at the high school and junior college level could be the key to getting the Warhawks back as a contender in the SBC.