CHARLOTTE, N.C. While Thursday was an opportunity to formally turn the focus and anticipation toward football season, Coastal Carolina athletic director Hunter Yurachek shared some news that should excite fans of the Chanticleers’ men’s basketball program as well.
Yurachek, attending the Big South’s annual football media day, confirmed that Coastal has signed a three-year basketball contract with Mississippi and revealed that he is also close to finalizing a contract to have Akron visit for the Chants’ first game in the new Student Recreation and Convocation Center this November.
The matchup with Ole Miss will take place on the road this season, the Rebels will then come to Conway during the 2013-14 season and Coastal will return to Oxford, Miss., for another road game the following year.
“Obviously, not only to get them on the schedule but to get them to return a game to Conway to our new building is a tremendous asset to our basketball program,” Yurachek said of the series with the Rebels.
It marks the third straight season the Chants will tangle on the court with an SEC opponent after defeating LSU on the road in a 78-69 overtime win Dec. 13, 2010 and then topping LSU again at home last Nov. 15, 71-63. Coastal also defeated ACC foe Clemson last November on the road,60-59, and will host the Tigers this season as the instate schools continue their series.
Such marquee matchups have originated from CCU men’s basketball coach Cliff Ellis calling on coaching relationships forged during his tenures with Clemson and Auburn -- such as Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy, for instance.
“I’ve known him for a long time, actually recruited him, coached against him when he was an assistant -- he’s just been a guy I’ve known for a long time,” Ellis said over the phone from Florida, where he was attending an AAU tournament. “I asked if he would play and he [agreed]. What I really appreciated about it, about three years ago when we weren’t winning games, people would look at us and play; now that we’ve won 75 games over three years, there’s a lot of people that don’t want to play. He, without hesitation, said he would play.”
Adding big names to the schedule and, more importantly, getting those teams to come to Conway has been one of Ellis’ goals since he took over the program, he said.
“Coastal just never had anybody that would come, anybody of national stature,” Ellis said. “... This is just something that’s unprecedented with regards to what we’re doing. It’s something we’re proud of. It’s exciting. It’s a tough challenge, but it’s exciting. Down the line, hopefully we’ll get South Carolina. Frank Martin is a friend. Hopefully that will come to fruition somewhere along the line. But we will consistently try to keep a powerhouse on the schedule.”
Ole Miss went 20-14 last season and played in the National Invitation Tournament, losing its opening game to Illinois State. The program has reached 20 wins in five of Kennedy’s six seasons as coach. The Rebels haven’t reached the NCAA tournament since 2002, but they made it to the NIT Final Four in 2008 and 2010.
Ellis also said there is a contract in the works to host a regional mainland tournament in conjunction with the annual Maui Invitational that would bring tournament games to Myrtle Beach to take place before the 2013 tournament in Hawaii. Elon is the mainland host this year.
As for the opening of the on-campus Convocation Center, Yurachek called upon his old contacts at Akron, where he worked as an executive senior associate athletics director before taking over at Coastal, to line up a Division I opponent for the first men’s basketball game in the new venue. He said the contract is not finalized, but there is “a verbal agreement” in place.
“We wanted to make sure we had a marquee opponent, and we had a challenge to find someone who wanted to come and open a building,” Yurachek said. “There weren’t many takers at the Division I level who wanted to come and face us and open the building. ... I obviously have a connection with coach [Keith] Dambrot from my time at Akron. He’s doing a favor by bringing his team here to open the building. We’re still kind of putting the finishing touches on all the festivities surrounding that night.”
Yurachek said there are still a few games left to secure before the full 2012-13 schedule is released.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.