Coastal Carolina finally has a completed football schedule to unveil for next fall.
The Chanticleers are expected to formally announce their 2016 slate Tuesday, promoting a schedule that includes a school-record eight home games during a unique season, as they will effectively be an independent program in between their move from the Big South Conference to the Sun Belt Conference while beginning a two-year transition from the FCS to FBS level.
Having no contracted conference games made for the biggest challenge in putting together the schedule while the final piece to the puzzle was adding a 12th game, which will be a road trip to play Lamar in Beaumont, Texas, to open the season.
“Obviously when you get down to the last couple of months you get a pretty good idea of who’s looking and who needs a game, and finally they were open to play,” Chants athletic director Matt Hogue said. “That also allowed us to get to 12 games. We had the ability to play 12 this year and wanted to try to get to 12 if we could. … just to get accustomed to what our schedules will be going forward.
“Once we join the Sun Belt we’ll play 12 games as a rule. The FCS legislation is a little different – you can only play 12 when the calendar works out – whereas 12 games is actually the base playing season for an FBS school. So we wanted to go ahead, since we knew we could use the entire calendar into December, we wanted to try to play 12 if we could pull it off.”
The only other road games are to Jacksonville State (Ala.) on Sept. 17, Gardner-Webb on Oct. 8 and Presbyterian on Oct. 29, with the latter two coming as agreements to maintain previously-scheduled trips to those former conference foes.
Meanwhile, the Chants will host Florida A&M (Sept. 10), Furman (Sept. 24), Charleston Southern (Oct. 1), Central Connecticut State (Oct. 22) and then close with four straight home games against Monmouth (Nov. 5), Bryant (Nov. 12), Liberty (Nov. 17, on a Thursday night) and Hampton (Nov. 26).
We had to do a lot of shuffling across the board. ... Everything else was fluid after that decision [to announce a move to the Sun Belt in September]. So there was a lot of effort and a lot of time that went into trying to fill slots.
CCU athletic director Matt Hogue
Coastal Carolina will pay guarantees in the $100,000 range to retain their previously-scheduled home dates with former Big South co-horts Charleston Southern and Monmouth, while maintaining the Liberty game was part of deal made last year in agreeing to move the teams’ 2015 meeting in Lynchburg, Va., to a Thursday night.
As for the trip to Lamar, an FCS program that went 5-6 last season, the Chants will not receive a financial payout aside from having their travel expenses covered. There is no return game in that contract, but there is one for Jacksonville State.
“We had to do a lot of shuffling across the board. … Everything else was fluid after that decision [to announce a move to the Sun Belt in September],” Hogue said. “So there was a lot of effort and a lot of time that went into trying to fill slots. We did shift some games, we had to move some things around to not only end up getting a full schedule done but also to try to find a good date that makes sense as your open date, potentially work around things like fall break and other variables. So there was quite a bit of maneuvering.”
After making four straight FCS playoff appearances, the Chants won’t be eligible for the postseason the next two years during their transition up to the FBS. But they will start playing a Sun Belt schedule in 2017, making scheduling for future years simpler.
Hogue previously announced that Coastal Carolina has home-and-home contracts for 2017-18 with Massachusetts and Alabama-Birmingham and a $1.1 million contract to play at UCLA in 2023. He said Monday there were no new agreements of that kind as of yet, but he expects the schedules for the 2017-18 seasons to come together quickly.
“I think we’re getting pretty close to being able to nail down both those schedules,” he said. “Again, we’re trying to make sure strategically we’re getting the best deal we can, maximize playing a money game, what do we do about playing an FCS game, all those variables. I can tell you this, though, I think with a great deal of surety, we’ll have ’17 finished a lot quicker than we had ’16 finished, and as we move forward they’ll be wrapped up a lot earlier because you don’t have as many non-conference games to get and it’s more of a standardized process.”
In the meanwhile, the Chants will enjoy the rare opportunity to play eight home games. Hogue expects the Chanticleer Athletic Foundation will start reaching out to season-ticket holders about renewals in early April while adding that the school will be offering packages that allow fans to get locked in now for future Sun Belt schedules.
“It’s huge because No. 1 it will give us an opportunity to generate some additional revenue because of just simply having extra games,” he said of the home-heavy slate. “Any time you can play at home, it’s a benefit across the board. It’s easier for our fans to see us play, it’s easier on our athletes. ... It’s one of those unique seasons where we ended up with eight games. It’s not something that’s going to happen a lot.”
2016 Coastal Carolina Football Schedule
at Lamar (ESPN3)
Coastal leads 1-0
at Jacksonville State
Coastal leads 6-1
Coastal leads 8-5
Boiling Springs, N.C.
Coastal leads 11-2
Central Connecticut State
Coastal leads 8-1
Coastal leads 4-0
Coastal leads 1-0
Coastal trails 6-7
Coastal leads 1-0
**Thursday night game