You gotta hand it to Coastal Carolina University President David DeCenzo. He’s no shrinking violet.
Unless a meteor falls from the sky and hits Conway some time this morning, DeCenzo is likely to announce another major move by the university under his leadership: the football team will soon be moving up in competition to the NCAA’s so-called Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level from the current Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
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It means CCU, a charter member of the Big South Conference, will become a member of the Sun Belt, which includes schools such as Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Idaho.
Is this the right move? A few thoughts:
1) DeCenzo has to be given the benefit of doubt when it comes to making decisions about football and CCU. He made an extremely unpopular choice a few years ago when he fired the beloved David Bennett and hired the then no-name (in college football, not on Wall Street) Joe Moglia to take over what had been a very good program that had gone through a few mediocre years. Moglia has since taken the program to unprecedented heights.
2) On the field, CCU has the talent to compete with any program in the FCS level. The only question is will that continue once this team’s senior quarterback leaves. That’s always a test for a college program. Either way you slice it, there are legitimate reasons to put CCU in the national championship contender conversation - something that was never true before DeCenzo hired Moglia.
3) Schools like Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Marshall once dominated the FCS level the way CCU is now. When Appalachian State took down the mighty Michigan Wolverines - while still an FCS school - it received more national press than it had during its multiple FCS championship runs. That illustrates why more schools want to be in the FBS, but also speaks volumes to the fruits of being dominant at the FCS level. Those schools still have good football programs, but they are further away from truly competing for national titles in the FBS even though they routinely did in the FCS. The same thing is likely to happen to CCU. When does anyone expect CCU to be able to compete with the likes of Clemson, USC and Alabama on a regular basis? Is that fate better than what’s going on in Conway now?
4) DeCenzo has gone on record saying that CCU will double the size of the current football stadium. That’s simply a necessity if CCU plans to step up in competition. But the school has had trouble selling out the stadium at its current size - even for home playoff games. Is it realistic to expect it to pack (or almost pack) an enlarged stadium?
I watched the opening of the FCS season this past Saturday. It was a game between four-time defending champ North Dakota State and traditional power Montana. It was high quality football on the field, and the atmosphere in Montana’s stadium was electric, rivaling anything you’ll see at any stadium on any level this year. Had the game been played in North Dakota, it would have been the same. While I’m convinced CCU has the coaches and athletes to compete with the young men I watched on ESPN Saturday, I’m not sure our fans can match theirs. How soon that changes will go a long way in determining the success of this latest bold move.