Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The best high school football highlight of 2013

Socastee has won 19 straight regular season games with Renfrow leading the Socastee offense. The Braves have lived in the shadow of rivals Myrtle Beach and Conway for decades, but with Hunter they are at the top of the mountain when it comes to Grand Strand football thanks to four straight wins over the Seahawks and Tigers. He runs the option like a doctor doing surgery on a defense. It's a combination of elusiveness and speed that makes him He's a nightmare for opposing coaches, but you'll find every one of them heaping praise on the reigning WPDE Zoneman winner. I can go into our archives right now and come up with a top ten list of Hunter Renfrow highlights, but I found the best highlight in our WPDE Studio last Friday night.

The Braves had just beaten archrival Myrtle Beach 37-21 and earned a trip to our studio as the SONIC Game of the Week. First year head coach Doug Illing handed Hunter an HTC Game Ball for his 249 yards combined passing and rushing and three TD's in the win. Here's a high school senior, on live television surrounded by his teammates, coaches and cheerleaders. He could have taken a moment to bask in the glow, but instead took the spotlight and shined it somewhere else.

You won't find a more thankless job than running balls to officials and hustling out water to players. It's easy to think that it's not all that important in the grand scheme of things. But Hunter Renfrow gets it. Robbie Bennett IS Socastee athletics. He works a tireless job in the background and is an important part of the Braves community. The guy who is in the shadows more than anyone else, was thrusted into the spotlight by the star of the team. An assistant coach leaned into me on the way out of the studio and said, "He came up with that all on his own", referring to his impromptu Game Ball audible.

Hunter Renfrow is the "Johnny Football" of the Grand Strand. He's got the Zoneman, Johnny Manziel has the Heisman. The way Manziel handled his off the field life post-Heisman is a cautionary tale of how one handles the spotlight and great success. Hunter Renfrow is handling his Zoneman success just fine.

The big schools haven't come knocking on Renfrow's door. He could run the triple option at Georgia Tech or he could be a slot receiver and dangerous return man at Clemson, the school he wants to attend. The FBS schools may get caught up in the numbers game when it comes to height and weight and miss out. That would be great news for a number of FCS programs that have already made offers. College coaches are well aware that it takes so much more than pure physical ability to succeed in college football. Looks can be deceiving. High school kids aren't supposed to be giving an adult life lessons. That's exactly what happened on Friday night when Hunter Renfrow reminded me that selfless is so much better than selfish. Thanks, Zoneman.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Courage of Robin Roberts

I'm not a big ESPY's guy. If it weren't for the Gamecocks Jadeveon Clowney up for Play of the Year (which he won), I would have been buried in our archives watching 2012 high school football highlights getting ready for our Zone Media Day next week. While waiting to watch the Outback Bowl hit for 1,000th time, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was presented to Robin Roberts. It's been well documented that the Good Morning America anchor has overcome breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and has become an inspiration for the bone marrow transplant cause. Millions of viewers have been rooting for Roberts as she has been very public in sharing her struggles and triumphs over something so scary. Everyone has learned firsthand what an inspiration Robin Roberts is and why she was the perfect choice for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. It just happens to be that Roberts inspired me many years ago when she was in perfect health.
Even in the minor leagues of sportscasting, if you've been doing it long enough, you'll have interactions with athletes and colleagues in the national spotlight. During my time in Bangor, I told the story of a small town girl who captured the fascination of a state by staying home and starring for the University of Maine women's basketball team. Cindy Blodgett led the nation in scoring and became a first round WNBA Draft pick. Her head coach was Joanne Palombo-McCallie, who is now one of the biggest names in college basketball as the head coach at Duke. I was nearly complete with my first documentary telling the story of the Maine basketball legend. The last piece of the puzzle was to go to Cleveland and show the hometown hero playing in the pros.
Robin Roberts was calling the Cleveland Rockers game for ESPN on the night I arrived. Two hours before tipoff, I approached her to see if I could ask her a few questions about Blodgett. I had arranged to talk to Cindy after the game, but nothing else was set up. It would have been so easy for Roberts to give me the brush off. After all, she's got a national broadcast to prepare for, and Cindy Blodgett was not a household name beyond the Maine border. Roberts not only agreed to talk with me, but she showed why she's one of the best in the business. It took me about 20 seconds to realize that she did her homework and then some. She broke down Blodgett like she had been covering her for as long as I had. She talked about the adjustment from small college basketball to the WNBA and the challenges she would face. I was hoping for a good sound bite or two and she gave me enough to do an entire separate feature for a future sportscast. As if that wasn't enough, she called over her color analyst. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Aueriemma, with Robin setting the table, sat down and gave me another great interview. It was like Robin Roberts put herself in my shoes and saw a small town sportscaster in the big arena and was thinking of how she could make my story better. Take my word - not everyone in television has that kind of selflessness and kindness.
I've been very lucky to have strong influences in my career. I was able to soak knowledge and wisdom on a daily basis from ESPN's Steve Levy and WNBC's Bruce Beck. It was only twenty minutes, but the time I spent with Robin Roberts had a lasting impression on me as well. It inspired me to try and give a helping hand to any young broadcaster who has reached out to me for advice or help no matter how busy the day gets.
I don't know if our paths will ever cross again, so just in case I can't personally say thank you, the next best thing is to share Robin Roberts Courage Award speech from the ESPY's. Sometimes, one brief interaction can have a lasting impact. I've already had that impact from Robin Roberts and if you watch this video you can have that same feeling.
Click HERE to watch Robin Roberts ESPYs speech

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rich's Blog: Golson on the big stage

The last time I saw Everett Golson, he had played the worst game of his entire football career. Shielded from the media, Golson came out of the Notre Dame locker room and stopped to talk with me. He had thrown two interceptions and got the quick hook in the second quarter from Brian Kelly in Notre Dame's 13-6 win over Michigan.
He had every reason to be down in the dumps and could have just kept on walking by. But that's not Everett Golson. He stopped and gave all the right answers and a quiet confidence that he's going to keep getting better. When the camera was off, I spoke with Golson for a couple of more minutes. I know him well enough that he could have took a moment to vent about not playing well or shake his head in disgust. There was none of that. He wasn't discouraged at all and was anxious to have a full two weeks to prepare for his next opponent. He enjoyed hearing about Myrtle Beach High's win over Conway the night before and more than anything happy to see a familiar face. Trust me, if it were up to him, he'd shy away from all the attention that he's getting in the press, but he knows that it comes with the territory.
Golson played eight games since that Michigan game and he did get better. He thrived in tough environments like Oklahoma and Southern California and might not have had flashy numbers, but he had the best stat of all - 12 wins and a spot in the BCS National Championship game.
I've witnessed more than one moment like after the Michigan game in the six years that I've covered Everett Golson that shows the intangibles which has put him on the biggest stage in college football in Miami. It has been fun to watch the country see the well rounded side of Golson who uses music as a creative outlet and has handled the bright spotlight of being a quarterback at one of the biggest brands in all of sports in stride.
When he threw for 47 touchdowns and just three picks in his junior season at Myrtle Beach, he told Mark Haggard that he was hoping to have no interceptions in his senior year. More than anything else, Everett Golson is a highly motivated individual. It doesn't matter what happens in the title game, one thing's for sure - Golson will be right to work in the offseason figuring out how he can be even better. Before leaving for Miami, he said that if the Irish wins it all in his redshirt freshman season, he'll get greedy and want to get another championship. That's how he is wired. Usually, that kind of mindset goes hand in hand with a huge ego, but not with Golson. He won WPDE's Zoneman Trophy in 2008 and 2009 and was the overwhelming favorite to win it all in his senior season. He suffered an injury against Byrnes early in the season and missed the majority of the regular season. With Zoneman ballots collected after week 11, it would be awkward to vote on a player who played about 10 quarters. Golson withdrew his name from consideration and asked for coaches to vote for one of his teammates for the award. At the Zone Banquet, I asked Golson to present the Trophy to the winner. This was my attempt of throwing him into the fire. Knowing that he would have been perfectly fine to have the spotlight off of him, I wanted to give him this task with the hopes that it would prepare him for what was to come in his college career. Standing on a stage in a room of 200 in a televised event is a daunting task for anyone, yet alone a high school senior. Talking off the top of his head, Golson spoke about what the award meant to him and how honored he was to be part of the legacy of the trophy and then announced that current University of South Carolina running back Shon Carson was the winner. Talking to Kirk Herbstreit and the rest of the national media is a whole lot bigger than the WPDE Zone Banquet, but I left that night knowing that Golson was going to be just fine in dealing with all the attention of being quarterback at Notre Dame.
I read a great article in USA Today about how young Golson will react on a big stage. The focal point of the article was the 2010 Class 3A championship that saw Myrtle Beach beat South Pointe in Everett's final high school game. I was on the sidelines and saw first hand the adversity Golson faced. Jadeveon Clowney, of South Carolina and future #1 NFL pick fame, threw #5 like a rag doll on the very first play of the game. Myrtle Beach had a blocked punt for a safety and it looked like the Seahawks were overmatched (sounds a lot like the Notre Dame/Alabama talk). Trailing 23-14 at the end of three quarters, Golson threw two TD passes in the fourth quarter in a 27-23 title victory. He didn't have the best game of his career, but he figured out a way to win when it mattered the most.
There's going to be about 25 million sets of eyeballs watching Everett Golson try and handle the toughest challenge of his career. He's the starting quarterback at Notre Dame and now a household name in all of America. If he plays great, that will be magnified even more. But that isn't going to change who he is at his core. He has the talent and resume to have a massive ego, but instead is the polar opposite. When a superstar comes home for Christmas and says his favorite gift was a candy cane from his Grandma, that's the definition of humble.
I have no idea what is going to happen between the Fighting Irish and the Crimson Tide. There will be a lot of people with butterflies as they hope that Golson can deliver in the biggest game of his life. Golson is human - he'll have those butterflies, but he'll settle into the flow of the game and do what he does on the big stage.
Today is Everett Golson Day in Myrtle Beach, as proclaimed by Mayor John Rhodes. It doesn't matter what happens later tonight on the field. The Grand Strand already knows that Everett Golson is a winner.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My encounter with Marcus Lattimore

I was supposed to be at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Thanks to a power outage at Darlington High School, the top ranked Hartsville Red Foxes were on the ropes and played the second half on Saturday against the Falcons. I'm glad I wasn't in Columbia. I got to watch a thrilling come from behind victory for Hartsville and didn't get to see up close the horrific injury to Marcus Lattimore.
In 1985 I remember watching Monday Night Football and rooting like heck for the Giants defense to get after Joe Theismann. When Lawrence Taylor did just that, I'll never forget him popping up and waving frantically for the trainers to get to the field. Theismann's leg was broken and the video replays made everyone cringe. For the first time in my life, sports was put in its proper perspective. I remember feeling so bad for a guy that I was begging to throw an interception just a few minutes earlier.
When the chilling image of Marcus Lattimore's knee out of its socket was shown throughout the day on Saturday, it brought back memories of Theismann's broken leg and Willis McGahee's dislocated knee in the 2002 national championship game. I was expecting all of the talk to be about how Lattimore's loss was going to effect the Gamecocks prospects for the rest of 2012 and how the certain first round NFL draft pick may lose millions due to his injury. But instead, people across the country talked about the character and humbleness of Lattimore and the genuine remorse that such a great football player and even better person has been dealt an unfair fate.

Kirk Herbstreit @KirkHerbstreit
"One if most devastating hits I've ever seen.. So sad...Great player and better person!! Thoughts and prayers for 21..."
David Pollack @davidpollack47
"I never heard Marcus Lattimore talk about himself over the last 3 years. Unselfish & as humble as a kid as I have been around."

When it comes to Marcus Lattimore the football player, television doesn't do him justice. From the sideliens, you can really see him absorb contact and show the rare combination of power and speed. His ability to get those extra yards and fight for every inch do not look sexy in the boxscore. I marvel more at his ability to gain six yards when he should have been stopped behind the line than the long touchdown runs. But like Herbstreit and Pollock said, Lattimore's character off the field surpass his elite status on the gridiron. I witnessed it firsthand
In December of 2009, Marcus Lattimore was the top recruit in America and with his season over, the recruiting madness was reaching its peak level. I was the emcee of the South Carolina Mr. Football ceremony at Myrtle Beach High's Auditorium. As part of a statewide television special, I sat down with Marcus after he won Mr. Football on the stage. For ten minutes, I spoke with him about the recruiting process, the end of his high school career and what it felt like to be not only the best player in the state, but one of the best high school football players in all of America. I was blown away by his maturity and his selfnessness. I got in my car to hustle back to the television station thinking that whatever college was fortunate enough to get him was going to benefit so much more than simple on the field production.
When I got back to the station, I popped in the tape anxious to see what small excerpt I would run on the news that night and tease the sitdown interview that would air on Sunday across the state. But there was a big problem: the tape was clogged and the interview was not there. The panic attack set in. The North South/Mr. Football special that was about to be showcased across the entire state was now missing Mr. Football. I was able to get Byrnes head coach Chris Miller's phone number and hoped that someway, somehow I could try and find Marcus and get something to remedy this technological snafu. I get a phone call to tell me to head to a hotel in Myrtle Beach and Marcus would meet me in the lobby.
In the middle of a busy lobby, Lattimore emerged from the elevator and greeted me. I went into full apology mode and mixed in the embarassment of the tape not working along with the hope that the eight minute interview we did 45 minutes earlier was going to happen again. Here's a kid who's getting text messages and voice mails around the clock from coaches, recruiting websites and every other kind of media. He had a look on this face that said "What are you worrying about?". He looked me right in the eye and with a small grin on his face said "Don't worry about it. I bet you this interview will be even better".
He sat right down and answered every question again like a pro. I've been fortunate enough to see elite athletes in many different sports. Seeing the way Marcus Lattimore conducted himself was one of those goose bump moments when you realize that you just interacted with someone special.
He's got a long road to go in recovery and it's not just Gamecock Nation that will be behind him as he goes through a lengthy rehabilitation. He has every right to be mad at the world and take a "why me?" attitiude especially after his 2011 season was cut short by a knee injury. But that's not Marcus Lattimore. As I watched Willis McGahee get in the end zone on Sunday night football in the NFL 10 years after his terrible injury, my guess that Marcus Lattimore is going to get that small grin back on his face and his character will grow even stronger.
I haven't had a one on one encounter with Marcus since that night in 2009 and he wouldn't be able to pick me out of a lineup. But if our paths ever cross again, I'd like to say to him just one thing.
Don't worry about it. I bet the next comeback will be even better.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Remembering Ronald Rouse

I thought I didn't know the name Ronald Rouse. When it comes to TV, it seems as if the air time is all for the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. You'll see a few defensive plays here and there, but for the guys in the trenches it's all hard work and no glory - no press clippings in the paper and no highlights on the Zone. Defensive lineman Ronald Rouse collapsed during Hartsville's game against Crestwood and when I first saw it on Twitter, my stomach sank to the bottom of my feet. Our news department deals with tragedy on a regular basis and I consider myself fortunate that it doesn't cross over to local sports nearly as much.
Hags and I have been covering high school sports for the better part of 15 years around here and we mean it when we say we have a true connection to the communities we cover. When I think of Hartsville, my memories flood back to so many happy times: when I nearly fell out of my chair when Jordan Lyles was drafted 38th overall by the Houston Astros in the MLB Draft, standing on the floor in Columbia when the Foxes won a state basketball title and making the trip to Chapin to see an 8th grader hit one of the longest home runs I've seen in a state championship softball game. Sadly, the night Ronald Rouse died is now in my Hartsville memory bank.
Ryan Naquin is a news reporter at WPDE, but a huge help on the Friday night football show. He asked me if he could start going to one game and giving extended highlights and post-game reaction. We were excited and joked about how he would bring a little Sal Palontonio ESPN flare to the show. We had a skull session on Thursday with talking points about Hartsville's unbelievable run game and how a win over Crestwood would put them in the driver's seat for a region crown. The last thing Ryan wanted to do was turn his sports hat in for a news hat.
Doing the Friday night show was not fun and it usually is (even if it gets a little stressful). Talking at the beginning of the show and reporting on a tragedy gave me an unpleasant feeling. What hurt the most is that there was nothing I could do to take away the pain that so many people were feeling. WATCH VIDEO: Beginning of October 5th Chevy End Zone 
Friday night's are a blur. I get the same feeling that the players and coaches when they are out on the field. It's the one night where we can reach and out and literally be a part of each community in the Pee Dee and the Grand Strand. We cringe at any little mistake we make in a show, just like players beat themselves up for a fumble or a miscue. To sum it up simply, we want to get it right.
So how do I get Ronald Rouse right? How can I give him a proper tribute? When I heard he had two sacks this season, I was desperate to find a clip of him. I started scouring through our archives hoping that I could find big #74 making a play. For the entire night, I was thinking of Ronald as a defensive lineman. When the show ended, Hags told me that he might have gotten a game ball. And he was right. Last year, we gave the entire Hartsville offensive line an HTC Game Ball and sure enough, the center on the 2011 Red Foxes was Ronald Rouse.
Then I stumbled onto one of the early games of the 2011 season. Due to a tropical storm wiping out most of the Friday night football schedule, there were only a small handful of games that still played. I got to make a long road trip to Hartsville to see the Red Foxes host Lamar. I get excited when I can venture a little further away from the nest. Hags and I make it a habit to shoot video of linemen who catch our eye. We just isolate on some big earth movers and throw them at the end of our highlights, never to see the air.  Ronald Rouse caught my eye. He was so much bigger than everyone on either side of the line. My camera pointed on his big cleats and I panned up NFL Films style. Rouse bounced up and down getting ready to go back in the trenches.
Over the next few days, television stations and newspapers will be showing images of an ambulance leaving Kelleytown Stadium with Ronald Rouse. I hope that people can click on the link below and see the Ronald Rouse I got to see - the unsung hero who got a game ball and the mountain of a young man with so much bounce in his step getting ready to play the game he loved. It seems I knew who Ronald Rouse was after all.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rich's Blog: Tanner's move to AD

For 13 years, I've been doing Gamecocks highlights and stories from 2 hours and 15 minutes away in Conway. I'm not on the inside, and my "sources" are much like every USC fan as we hear what's going on from our media partners in the Midlands. Ray Tanner probably couldn't pick me in a lineup, but I've seen enough to know that the Gamecocks made the right choice for its next athletic director.
The athletic director is almost like a CEO of a University's sports brand. The CEO part is thanks to the huge revenue pool that is part of the modern day big conference sports. An athletic director needs to raise money, organize an entire department and be able to relate to the coaches in every sport.
Tanner's tremendous track record on the diamond translates to every sport the Gamecocks play. Any coach in any sport can marvel at what the skipper has done in his sixteen years guiding USC (14 NCAA appearances, 10 Super Regional appearances and 6 CWS trips highlighted by back to back national titles). It certainly will be tough for Tanner to walk away from the dugout, but he built the South Carolina program into one of college baseball's truly elite. With Carolina Stadium and one of the most loyal fan bases in all of the NCAA, he's leaving at the very top of the game.
Every year, without fail, Coach Tanner would make an annual trip to the Florence Country Club for a dinner with Gamecock fans just before the start of the season. My guess is that he'll still make that trip with new baseball coach Chad Holbrook. You could tell that Tanner was loyal to relationships and the Pee Dee should know that most of all.
Dr. Eddie Floyd, a prominent USC booster, helped play a role in having the Gamecocks come to Florence to help Francis Marion open its new baseball stadium. This was an absolutely nothing to gain proposition from a USC baseball standpoint. A midweek road trip against a Division II team was not good for the RPI no matter what the result was. Tanner knew it would be a special night for the Patriots and he showed great class in giving FMU a true showcase to open its new stadium.
It was supposed to be a Gamecocks rout, but the Patriots pulled off a shocker beating the two time Division I national champs 5-4. This was one of those true upset moments in Palmetto state sports (think Chaminade beating Virginia). I was expecting a little anger and some serious frustration from Tanner. After all, a Wednesday loss to a Division II school is not a good precursor for a weekend trip to Mississippi. What I saw instead was a leader who showed his true colors when things weren't going his way.
He did nothing but praise Francis Marion for delivering on a big stage. It was the Patriots moment, one that they'll talk about for generations and he didn't take away from that. At the same time, he was calm when talking to reporters despite suffering a midweek Division II loss.
"We'll respond. Our guys are resilient," Tanner said after the game. "We play in a league where we don't win all the time. Our guys understand that Francis Marion is good and we respect them, We knew that it was extremely possible that we could get beat here tonight if we didn't play as good as we needed to, but we'll bounce back."
They sure did bounce back. The Gamecocks closed out the season 15-5 and got back to Omaha for a third straight year. You'll hear from every corner of the state that Ray Tanner is a class act. I witnessed it first hand when things weren't rosy. You could sense that what he said to the media was the same message he gave to the team and any Gamecock fan who might have wanted to push the panic button. I came away from that game thinking that is the mindset of a champion.
Bunting the runner over and getting the right matchup out of the bullpen will not translate to Ray Tanner's new job, but leadership does. Ray Tanner will bring that single greatest attribute to his new job and lead the Gamecock Nation in a different but still very important way.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rich's Blog: Why CCU is thinking of making a move

There's a game of musical chairs going on in college athletics as the landscape of Division I sports continues to push towards the super-conference as schools begin to scurry to find their spot on the NCAA food chain. It all got started when the Big XII nearly became a dinosaur when Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten and Colorado made its way to the now Pac 12. Texas and Oklahoma were nearly courted to head out west, but ultimately stayed. The Big XII still had to go into survival mode as it snatched up West Virginia and TCU while it lost Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC.
This game has continued to every level of Division I athletic conference and its now working its way to the Colonial Athletic Association. The CAA had 12 members who played Division I sports and a combination of those members and other schools to form a 12 team football conference that was one of the deepest and most powerful leagues in FCS football. Like the Big 12, the CAA could put be into a position where it needs to quickly finds members to stay in existence.
That's where Coastal Carolina comes into play. CoastalFans.com posted the following item on its Twitter feed:
"In an early morning meeting, the Athletics Committee of the Board of Trustees approved a motion to give President David DeCenzo the authority to "take all action" necessary to facilitate Coastal's departure from the Big South & joining a new conference. This motion will be considered by the entire Board of Trustees in their session tomorrow (Friday 5/4), and if passed will be the first step toward finding a new conference home for the Chanticleers."
This is a proactive and logical move by the brass at CCU. What this maneuver does is put Coastal Carolina in a position to be able to find a chair when the musical chairs game heats up in the coming weeks. This time around it isn't the BCS super conferences that are in the game, but the mid-major schools who are deciding between jumping to the bottom of 1-A football to FCS schools that are looking to align with the best conference possible. Coastal has seen the first ripple effects and are wisely getting its ducks in a row.
The puzzle pieces are scattered all over the landscape in many different forms. The Colonial has now lost two schools that are going up from FCS to FBS football (UMass to the MAC in football only and Georgia State to the Sun Belt in all sports). Rhode Island is going in the other direction from the powerful FCS conference to a lower profile league in the Northeast Conference. Now comes news that Old Dominion is on the verge of following suit and joining Conference USA. Hofstra and Northeastern got out of the FCS football game prior to this making a potential five CAA football members leaving the league. Villanova fits into the mold of a school that could jump up to FBS football and could join its other sports in the Big East. If CAA commissioner Tom Yeager doesn't have enough stress on his plate, there's the other side of the coin. The CAA all-sports members lost Georgia State and could now see VCU and George Mason bolt for the Atlantic 10. The A-10 just scored mid-major basketball darling Butler and lost Charlotte to Conference-USA and VCU and GMU would make a powerful basketball league.
That's where Coastal Carolina comes in. As conferences continue to raid each others memberships, the CAA is at a crossroads. Every current CAA member who has not officially made the move to another league has to be lining up a "Plan B" - If the pieces continue to fall into place, the MAC, NEC and Patriot Leagues will all be ready to take on new members. The Colonial could be no more unless it begins to fill in the missing slots and Coastal Carolina is a fit that can help both of the CAA's problems. With Coastal a full fledged Colonial member, it can help the football and all sports problem.
The Colonial situation will eventually play its way down to the Big South. Like Coastal Carolina, Stony Brook and Liberty are two potential institutions that can move up the food chain. Liberty is talking about moving to FBS football while Stony Brook has the attraction of the #1 media market and like Coastal a good solution for the Colonial. Stony Brook would fill the Northeast void left by Rhode Island and be a good travel partner with CAA all sports school Hofstra. Coastal would have its all sports rivalry with UNC-Wilmington. The Colonial recently signed a TV deal with NBC Sports cable outfit and is officially in survival mode.
The Southern Conference seems to be stable at the moment with the only threat being Appalachian State jumping to FBS football. Whether the SoCon tries to add members as all of this plays out remains to be seen. It's early in the game, but Coastal Carolina is ready to put itself in the conversation. If the Chanticleers do not take a proactive mindset, they could see Liberty and Stony Brook leave the Big South and watch the league lose its automatic bid in FCS football and see the RPI's in baseball and basketball plummet to even lower levels.
The puzzle pieces are still jumbled and nowhere near close to being totally put together, but the Chanticleers piece is about to be officially put on the side of the table and ready to get slotted in.