Chants fans: Get to know your new Sun Belt enemies

The Coastal Carolina University football team officially makes its Sun Belt Conference debut this weekend, and that means getting to know a whole new crew of schools to hate. OK, hate is a bit harsh, but this is big-time college football in the South so it’s pretty darn close. Chanticleer fans need to educate on their knew conference rivals in order to better know the enemy. Sure, CCU’s other sports teams have been playing Sun Belt foes for a year, but like I said, this is big-time college football in the South. Here’s a quick breakdown of the other schools in the Sun Belt and something you might not know about them:

* Appalachian State: The Chants have made a couple of tough trip to Boone, NC, so they already know they are up against a storied football program that won three straight FCS national titles (2005-07). The Mountaineers don’t like to be called “Appy State”; drop the “y” and you are fine. And speaking of Y, the Mountaineers’ mascot Yosef, a hillbilly stereotype who looks like he could co-star on Duck Dynasty, is actually a reference to “yourself” and the personal sense of pride for an oft-maligned region of the country.

* Arkansas-Little Rock: UALR (pronounced “ULAR” by fans) recently underwent a bit of a name change for its sports teams. The school prefers its squads to be called the “Little Rock Trojans,” which sounds like either an awesome band name or a bad Korean translation of a movie title. Former L.A. Lakers great Derek Fisher is an alum.

* Arkansas State: The Red Wolves (then known as the “Indians”) won the 1970 Pecan Bowl, the national championship game for historically black colleges. But ASU is best known for track and field, including alum Al Joyner taking the gold in the triple jump in the 1980 Los Angeles Games, and Tom Hill taking the bronze in the 1972 Munich Games.

* Georgia Southern: The Eagles won back-to-back national championships in the 1980s under legendary coach Erk Russell. Before GSU players take the field at Palson Stadium, nicknamed “the prettiest little stadium in America,” they head butt a bald-headed bust of Russell, who was known for drawing blood when he used the move to motivate his players back in the day. Country music heart throb Cole Swindell is an alum.

* Georgia State: The Panthers program was thrust in the national spotlight when they hired legendary coach Bill Curry to get the program off the ground in 2010. The former Alabama, Georgia Tech and Kentucky coach had success with the Panthers before retiring in 2012. Mascot Pounce is a beloved figure on the downtown Atlanta campus, as is famous alum and country music comedian Ray Stevens.

* Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns, one of the best and only rhyming nicknames in college sports, have something in common with CCU. They were the first small school to make a run for the College World Series title in 2000, but the Chants went a step farther and won it all in 2016. Mascot Cayenne, a giant red spicy pepper, brings tears to the eyes of “Ooh-la-la” fans.

* Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks made a national name for themselves 10 years ago when they upset Alabama. They rubbed it in on the Tide when Alabama played in the Independence Bowl later that year, their bus passing several billboards featuring the final score as they drove through Monroe. Famous alums include country music star Tim McGraw and Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson.

* South Alabama: The Chants have one close tie with the Jaguars in basketball coach Cliff Ellis, who built the program and led the Jags to the NCAA Tournament in the 1979 and 1980 seasons. He led the Chants to the Big Dance in 2014 and 2015, a nice back-to-back bookend on a career that saw him also take Clemson and Auburn to the NCAA Tournament. Famous alums include 2011 World Series MVP David Freese and Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lieber.

* Texas-Arlington: The Mavericks are largely the product of the 1980s Texas oil boom but the school quickly adopted some pretty cool traditions, like the annual Oozeball Tournament, volleyball played in a giant mud pit, and the Bed Races, which seems costumed teams push their mobile mattresses across the football field. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips and Astronaut Robert L. Stewart are famous graduates.

* Texas State: Once known as Southwest Texas State Teachers College, this small school has blossomed into a top-level college program. But the best part of the Bobcats’ football games might be at halftime, when the Texas State Strutters strut their stuff with the distinction of being the first marching band to start dancing during their shows back in 1960. Boko the Bobcat is the big cat on campus, but he is outranked by the school’s most famous alum – former US President Lyndon Johnson.

* Troy: Once known as Troy State, dropping the “State” was a piece of cake compared to the school’s schizophrenic mascot changes. The Troy State Teachers just didn’t seem to strike the kind of fear into opponents, unless maybe they were chewing gum in class. The Troy State Red Wave was just a little too similar to another little known football program just down the road – the Alabama Crimson Tide. So they finally settled on the obvious – the Troy Trojans. Troy also has a school rodeo team.

So it seems Coastal Carolina’s quirky mascot, the Chanticleers, and rags-to-riches sports story make them a perfect fit for the Sun Belt Conference. We can act like we hate them on Saturdays, but we are in good company.

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