MYRTLE BEACH Representatives from the Big South Conference, Coastal Carolina University and the city convened Thursday at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to trumpet the announcement that the Chanticleers will host the men’s and women’s conference basketball tournaments on campus for the next three years.
VisitMyrtleBeach.com will be the title sponsor for the event, which will bring 23 teams to Coastal’s new Student Recreation and Convocation Center for 21 games over six days in March.
Coastal won the bid to host over submissions from Winthrop, UNC Asheville and the city of Winston-Salem, N.C.
“Everybody feels like having a destination as the location for their basketball championship can be successful, but beyond that, what we looked for in these bids is support not only from the university but more importantly from the community,” Big South commissioner Kyle Kallander said. “And it was very clear to us that the community was going to embrace this event and really support it well.”
The men’s and women’s tournaments have been played at separate sites in recent years with the league’s regular-season champion hosting. Kallander said there have been discussions for a while among the league’s coaches about changing that format. In the fall the conference’s university presidents decided to move in this direction, and it was first announced last week in a news release that Coastal had won the bid to host.
That bid includes a commitment of $50,000 in ticket revenue and was bolstered by bringing aboard the title sponsor and a marketing plan in which VisitMyrtleBeach.com will target some of its advertising in January and February toward promoting the Big South tournament.
“It’s exciting for me as a coach from the standpoint of just promoting basketball,” CCU men’s basketball coach Cliff Ellis said. “I think this is a great thing. This is going to be one of the biggest things that’s hit Myrtle Beach because it gives an opportunity for major college basketball to come to a venue and an area [like this], and I think they’re going to want to continue to come back. ... Where else would you want to go? When you look around, where else would you want to go than to be in the Grand Strand area. Great basketball, great teams, a lot of competition, what an experience it’s going to be for everybody.”
Said CCU women’s basketball coach Alan LeForce: “I think this is going to be one of the best events the Big South’s ever had. You’re going to have all the teams, it’s going to be a tournament atmosphere -- like March Madness. So I’m excited about it.”
Coastal athletic director Hunter Yurachek, meanwhile, was asked about the university’s open interest in evaluating a possible change in conference affiliation down the road and how that affected this process.
“We wouldn’t put a bid in if we weren’t serious about the Big South Conference, and as I’ve said before, as we evaluate conference affiliation we are a member of the Big South Conference until something happens otherwise,” Yurachek said.
“That [talk has] really kind of died down now. I think that’s kind of run its course for this year. We’re doing our evaluation, but we’re a member of the Big South Conference and we’re happy to be the host of the Big South Conference championships.”
Kallander acknowledged that topic was a matter of discussion and consideration before the bid was awarded.
“We talked about that fully. We’re all very aware of the fluidity in conference membership right now, and in fact, that’s a reality,” he said. “... As part of the bid process, we did talk extensively about that. Ultimately, our presidents as they talked about it, it was clear that there were no conversations currently taking place that would impact it.”
The 2013 Big South basketball tournament runs from March 5-10 with the men’s teams playing four first-round games on that Tuesday, the women playing three first-round games on Wednesday, four men’s quarterfinals on Thursday, four women’s quarterfinals on Friday, the semifinals for both on Saturday and the championship games on Sunday.
Coastal’s new 3,200-seat Student Recreation and Convocation Center is set to debut this fall. Construction is just about complete, and Yurachek said the university expects to receive a temporary certificate of occupancy early next week.
“That building is gorgeous and I think we’ll be in there full-time some time around August 1,” he said.
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes also spoke at the news conference Thursday and expressed his hope the tournament will become a fixture at Coastal beyond the initial three-year agreement. Additionally, he suggested the Big South consider bringing the conference baseball tournament to Pelicans Ballpark and making the Myrtle Beach area the preferred host for the league’s championship events.
“We don’t think there could be any better place for you to have your tournament championships -- even track and field -- because this is a sports-minded community,” Rhodes said.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.