Chanticleers’ next best destiny? My thoughts

BadboyOn the eve of the Big South Football Media gathering in Atlanta this week, an eye-catching headline, “Sun Belt Conference reaches out to Coastal Carolina,” appeared in The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, Louisiana, and calls in to question the future of Chanticleer athletics and the very conference they help found thirty years ago. It was confirmed by Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson and CCU AD Matt Hogue that preliminary discussions have taken place about their respective futures.

While Coastal has not publicly stated a desire to move up to FBS status, there is a faction of Chanticleer supporters that would love nothing more than to move to the largest level of college football and compete with South Carolina & Clemson for future Bowl consideration. That sounds like a great idea until you put pen to ledger and, in my opinion, the CCU Board of Trustees now have several decisions to make toward its “next best destiny.”

My close friend Bill Clardy used to tell me that everyone has a “first best destiny, but the key to happiness is discovering it.” Discovering it for Coastal Carolina University is well above my pay grade, but having watched the program grow from its early days of the move to Division 1; having served as the school’s play-by-play announcer for four years (long before the inception of football); and having covered the team as a media member longer than anyone outside of Wayne White, I have a pretty good insight on what their next step should be. I think CCU has three, maybe four options to determine what its next best destiny is. Although, the first thing they need to decide is whether they want to remain a really big fish in the comfortable FCS pond or try to swim (and avoid getting swallowed), by the Great Whites in an uncharted FBS ocean.

Listen, I’ve been through this before. I arrived at Marshall University in 1998, when they had just made the move back to the FBS and there was a large and very vocal opposition to the move, because they were not only winning 1-AA National Championships, they were doing it on their home-field! Again, a sizable segment of the Appalachian fanbase is disgruntled over their move up after winning three straight 1-AA titles. Their argument, “why are we choosing to become kibble for programs that have 10 times our athletic budget, when we can continue to feast on schools our size.”

Having experienced this process at a number of places, I’m telling you that as long as coaches remain in place like Joe Moglia, Cliff Ellis, Gary Gilmore, Shawn Docking, and others (who have more than been set-up to succeed by people like Alan Connie), the Chanticleers are going to be national contenders for as long as they want to be. The support, facilities, and commitment are second to none at the current level… But…

Any knee-jerk acceptance of an impending offer to join the Sun Belt would be doing not only the coaches and players a disservice, but the student-body and its fanbase. Yes, Georgia Southern & Appalachian State just moved to the SBC and strengthened their football future. Troy, Georgia State, and Arkansas State are possible future heavyweights too, but travel to places like New Mexico State & Idaho for football and Texas, Louisiana & Arkansas for all of the non-revenue sports every year is just absurd.

While La-Lafayette is a bonafide powerhouse in baseball, I don’t see a single comparable basketball power, which Coastal needs, and as a G5 conference there is no big money (TV or otherwise), payout coming by going to a mediocre bowl game. Sure, you get national television exposure on ESPN, by going to the “WhoGivesaRatsRearEnd.com Bowl” and a trip to the “gift suite” is sweet for the players, but most of those games are played in places that either no one wants to go or can afford to go. Not to mention, the schools who play in those games lose between $75,000-$250,000 because of travel expenses and ticket buyback guarantees.

With all that being said, take into consideration the added facility upgrades that would have to undertaken after just building beautiful new palaces for the baseball and basketball teams. They would have to expand Brooks Stadium to a minimum of 20,000 seats AND average at least 15,000 every other year to retain their FBS credentials. Coastal has a loyal and energetic following during the week, but come gameday, they do not fill a stadium that seats less than 10,000 now! I know that a move up would encourage more people to show up (unless Carolina or Clemson is playing at home that week), and the opponents’ following will be larger, but is playing ULM or USA going to double your attendance every week? I don’t think so…

A move to the Sun Belt would be a desperate attempt to jump in the deep end of the pool before determining how cold the water is. You might not drown, but your case of hypothermia will last a decade.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll quickly detail what I think are CCU’s middle options. Third, do nothing. The Big South has always been extremely competitive in basketball, baseball and most non-revenue, uhm excuse my political-incorrectness, Olympic sports and has long since surpassed the Southern Conference in football supremacy in the FCS South. I thought, and predicted 6-8 years ago, that Coastal would jump to the SoCon, but the three jealous private institutions in our state blocked the move fervently. Look at what it got them. The Southern is a shadow of its former self! They lost their best two football schools in App State and Ga Southern and then lost its best two basketball schools in Davidson and College of Charleston.

Which brings me to what we’ve proposed on my daily radio show at www.ThePressBoxRadio.com (Weekdays 8-10am), that would be a fascinating move for Coastal & both leagues… A merger! The 2nd best option for CCU would be to become the anchor, along with Wofford, Furman, Liberty and The Citadel, of the NEW “Big Southern Conference!” There would be a perfect number of football playing schools to form two divisions and have a championship game.

I promise, the schedule could be worked out if the pigheaded coaches and pointy-headed academics stay out of it and let common-sense be their guide. Both leagues have positive aspects, people and institutions that would benefit the other. The number of schools in the other sports would have to be trimmed (Sorry, feelings are going to get hurt), and there’s a sticky issue of both leagues having a strong, well-qualified commissioner who doesn’t want to lose his job. I have personal feelings on this one that I’ll keep to myself because I know one of the men much better than the other, but I know both have done a remarkable job with the hands they’ve been dealt.

Finally, what I truly believe is Coastal’s next best destiny is a move to the Colonial Athletic Association. But, there’s that little problem of the Chants not having an invite to the CAA, that we know of. And, while we’re simply speculating about what the Chants’ future holds, let me explain.

First, the CAA is the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of FCS conferences as we talk today. Yes, NDSU has won 4 straight National titles, but from top to bottom the CAA is king and Coastal would only enhance their stature on that playing surface. With a predominance of Coastal’s student-body being from North of the Mason-Dixon line, they will have familiarity with the opponents coming to Brooks Stadium during football season and maybe several friends and family will come South when the schools from back home visit. Since football drives the bus at every level, that’s the main reason that any move favors the CAA. Plus, you would have traveling partners in basketball and Olympic sports with C of C, UNCW and Elon. Not only is the football the best in the nation, the other sports are nationally-recognized; the travel expenses make so much more sense; and you’re still one of the biggest predators in your river, that could ultimately empty into a body of water that you are more accustomed to. If I were among the power-brokers at Coastal Carolina, I would be “reaching out to the CAA,” rather than considering a quantum leap both financially and competitively into a realm you have no control over. … Just my two cents.

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5 responses to “Chanticleers’ next best destiny? My thoughts”

  1. Bob jones says:

    If the statement at the beginning is saying Coastal helped found the SunBelt. They did not.

  2. Steven "Bo" Graham says:

    “Bad Boy” Well written and thought out. I totally agree a jump to the Sunbelt would be a huge mistake.

  3. “ I thought, and predicted 6-8 years ago, that Coastal would jump to the SoCon, but the three jealous private institutions in our state blocked the move fervently.”

    It’s really hard to take this rant seriously when you consider the fact that there are only two private schools in South Carolina that are members of the Southern Conference.

    The comment shows a lack of awareness about the overall Southern Conference membership, and the goals of those institutions, and perhaps a lack of awareness about how conference realignment works.

    “A merger! The 2nd best option for CCU would be to become the anchor, along with Wofford, Furman, Liberty and The Citadel, of the NEW “Big Southern Conference!” There would be a perfect number of football playing schools to form two divisions and have a championship game.”

    Okay, let’s count this “perfect number of football playing schools”, first of all…
    Liberty, Gardner-Webb, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Presbyterian, Monmouth, Furman, Wofford, The Citadel, Chattanooga, Samford, Western Carolina, Mercer, VMI, East Tennessee State

    I count 15 schools. That doesn’t strike me as a “perfect number”. Maybe you could get rid of Monmouth (after all, the author also advocates that “the number of schools in the other sports would have to be trimmed”, so he isn’t averse to dumping programs), but that still leaves 14.

    Why on earth would a conference that presumably wants to participate in the FCS playoffs want to have a league championship game? How exactly would that work?

    Why would the SoCon want to decrease the value of its automatic bid in the first place by expanding to 14 schools?

    “First, the CAA is the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of FCS conferences as we talk today.”

    I’m not sure there is a rating system out there that would have the CAA ahead of the MVFC.

    “With a predominance of Coastal’s student-body being from North of the Mason-Dixon line, they will have familiarity with the opponents coming to Brooks Stadium during football season and maybe several friends and family will come South when the schools from back home visit.”

    53% of the student body at Coastal Carolina is from South Carolina – and I’m not sure the 7% of the undergraduate population from New Jersey is really going to be hyped about CAA football.

  4. HZ20 says:

    “”Listen, I’ve been through this before. I arrived at Marshall University in 1998, when they had just made the move back to the FBS and there was a large and very vocal opposition to the move, because they were not only winning 1-AA National Championships, they were doing it on their home-field! Again, a sizable segment of the Appalachian fanbase is disgruntled over their move up after winning three straight 1-AA titles.””

    I call complete BS on you. Ive been a Marshall fan/student/involved in many things that Marshall has done. Marshall, their students, fans and alumni were ready to leave the SoCon by 1993. The only outcry you may have heard was from the chair of the business school who at the time was a WVU Grad and didn’t want another IA as he said crowding his state school.

  5. In the interest of “Donald Trump-mode,” (Don’t let ANY ignorant criticism go unrebutted)… To Bob Jones: Really, you think I indicated Coastal “founded” the Sun Belt Conference? Get a clue dude… It’s sad that I have to explain it to you, but Coastal WAS a founding member of the Big South Conference and ANY move they make will affect the “future” of that conference. If Coastal and/or Liberty leave the Big South, it will forever affect the future of THAT conference and whatever decision they make will effect the future of the university. Grow up and join the real world brother, every written word can’t be interpreted literally and then commented upon. Don’t be offended by my response, just read it again and you’ll understand the context. If you’re still offended by my tone, that’s a YOU problem, my friend.

    Sandlapper Spike… OK, I’ll admit symantics… The Citadel is a “public” college, but it has been listed administratively as both public & private, AND while they will deny to the death that they have ever blocked Coastal’s admission to the SoCon… EVERYONE with half-a-brain knows that’s a bold-face LIE!!!! They’ve not only been the most steadfast hater of CCU’s growth. they’ve gotten Furman and Wofford to cowardly join them in their stonewalling silence.

    Let common-sense be your guide for a moment in determining that Monmouth will be leaving the BSC in just a few years and would never be a part of my “hypothetical” Big Southern Conference (c’mon man, I’m just throwing out fun proposals, lighten up!)… But, 14 teams in two divisions with a championship game merely mirrors both the SEC and ACC!!! OK, we’d have to trim the season by one game in the BSC (Holy Sh!t, conference adminstrators’ heads just exploded!!!)… The non-football playing schools, plus the newbies of Mercer, Kennesaw & ETSU {which doesn’t play football in the SoCon yet}, could play in another “Olympic Sports-Only” conference outside of football season to retain their NCAA basketball tourney bids. AND, no one doubts that the Big Southern Conference would only get the one automatic bid… I would suggest that 3-4 teams in the stronger league would get at-large bids to the FCS playoffs.

    The CAA IS without a doubt the “king” of FCS conferences because of the RPI rating in 2014 Spike… The CAA was ranked #1, the Big South Conference was #2 and the Missouri Valley was #3… Look it up for yourself, Mr. Scepticle!

    Finally Spike, because I don’t have the true geographical evidence of its student-body…I’m going to say you are right about the current make-up of where they’re from… But, I know for a fact that the future of Coastal’s student-body recruitment is and will be from the Northeast for a number of reasons. Deny it if you want (and I have no idea why, I’m assuming financial affluence), but every school in South Carolina, Georgia & Florida is targeting underclassmen from North of the nation’s capitol!

    HZ20… Call me whatever you please and believe whatever you want… That’s your prerogative! But, I worked at Marshall University for over two years in the late 90’s and I’m still very much involved with the inner-workings with the MU athletic department… AND… I know for a fact (and can name big money boosters to this day), that wanted to continue dominating 1-AA Football, winning National Championships and NOT having to accept second-class citizenship at the 1-A level to the a-holes in the upper panhandle. As long as you’re winning National Championships at your financial level, what the hell does it matter what mediocrity the Brokeback-Mountaineers were accomplishing in the Big (L)East??? Since you know it all, I won’t convince you, but I know that sentiment is still prevalent today, event with the Hilljacks in the totally irrelevant Big 12!

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