Starting in 1951, the Cajun Crown was born. This game we used to know as a major rivalry in the deep south between UL Lafayette and McNeese State was once played every year, but changes in the divisions the two programs played in caused a once great rivalry to fall cold.
The two programs started playing in 1951 and continued to do so annually up until 1987. In 1982, McNeese State dropped down to Division I-AA, while the Ragin' Cajuns remained in Division I-A. A few more aspects of the rivalry have changed since the early days, like the fact that UL Lafayette was known as USL (Southwestern Louisiana) at the time. They were also known as the Bulldogs and not the Ragin' Cajuns like we know them now.
Overall, the series between these two goes to McNeese State (20-15-2) with the last win going in favor of the Cowboys in 2007. At the time, McNeese State was the number eight team in FCS, taking down the Ragin' Cajuns in front of their own home crowd. This type of "recent" success comes as no surprise, as they have beaten up on their Cajun Crown rival for most of the last 40 years.
The series has taken a drastic turn to the Cowboys since the 1970s, with McNeese State winning 12 of the last 17 matchups (two ties included). This Cowboys team has been extremely tough to beat for FBS teams, almost taking down Nebraska and beating USF in 2013 by a score of 53-21.
Amazingly, it's possible to see these two play each other the last time they faced off. The year was 2007 and judging by the outcome of the game, I'm guessing it's a McNeese State graduate that filmed and posted this video to YouTube.
So, why bring up the Cajun Crown series? Well, in 2016 we'll be seeing this rivalry played again and unfortunately for the Ragin' Cajuns, they'll be coming off their worst season in quite some time. Interesting times will be in store for all as McNeese State will be going through their first season under head coach Lance Guidry.
This McNeese State football team is coming off a 10-1 season in which they lost to an eventual final four team (Sam Houston State) in the FCS playoffs. The Cowboys had an early season game with LSU scheduled, but rain and lightning caused a postponement and eventual cancellation.
In 2015, UL Lafayette felt the full effect of new quarterback pains and only managed four wins. This was their lowest output since 2010 when they won just three games.
While typically an FBS team facing an FCS team means an easy win, this isn't the case in 2016. McNeese State is clearly a team to be reckoned with and UL Lafayette will still be trying to find their identity by the time these two square off (September 10).
As the years come and go, it's nice to see rivalries continue. And while these two haven't played in almost ten years, it's good to see them get back on the field against each other. Most fans of each school can agree that this kind of matchup is needed on a more consistent basis.
On September 10, 2016, the battle for the Cajun Crown will continue, and it'll be very telling of where these two programs are. McNeese State will be trying to continue their strength in the FCS and the Ragin' Cajuns will be trying to get back to SBC prominence with a more solidified offense under a new starting quarterback.