In 1966, “CINO” became a cheer.
It stood for “Coastal is No. 1.”
In 2014, “CINO” has evolved.
It stands for something real.
“We’ve been saying it for 50 years,” said 72-year-old Larry Biddle, a former Coastal basketball coach, administrator and board member. “Now it’s coming true.”
On Saturday afternoon, the Chanticleers will take the field as the top-ranked football team in the Football Championship Subsdivision Coaches Poll. After last week’s win over Charlotte and former No. 1 North Dakota State’s loss to Northern Iowa, the little school that first offered night classes at Conway High School in 1954 showed that CINO is more than a slogan. It’s a sign Coastal has grown up.
What’s in a name?
The word CINO is ubiquitous at Coastal today. Students eat inside the CINO Grille. They are issued university IDs called CINO cards. During home football games, the student section incorporates the beloved acronym into cheers.
But when Lynda Taylor Courtney arrived on campus as a freshman in 1966, Coastal had no unifying theme. The school consisted of two buildings and two administrators and no one lived on campus.
In those days, Coastal was a branch of the University of South Carolina (it didn’t become an independent institution until 1993). The school was created to provide an inexpensive alternative for local kids who couldn’t afford USC in Columbia or Clemson University in the Upstate. It also allowed them to keep their summer jobs at the beach. The first buildings of the main campus were finished in the mid-1960s.
“There was not that feeling of camaraderie amongst the students,” said Courtney, now 66 years old. “We decided that we needed to get a little school spirit going.”
As head cheerleader for the basketball team, Courtney gathered her peppy peers in the student union and they began discussing possible chants and mascot ideas.
Although the team was called the Chanticleers, they found the name cumbersome. A fictional rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” Chanticleer was a word most students on the campus couldn’t pronounce. So the cheerleaders stuck with something simple: “Coastal is … Number One.”
Then they wrote down the initials.
“The light bulb kind of came on with everybody,” Courtney said. “We said, ‘Oh, our mascot can be CINO.’ Nobody knows what a Chanticleer is except English majors. … We would go places and people would say, ‘What is a Chanticleer? We know what a Gamecock is.’ We didn’t like that so we invented our own.”
Biddle remembers Courtney bounding into his office with the news.
“I’ve got a name for the mascot,” Courntey said. “CINO.”
“I like it,” Biddle said. “S-I-N-O?”
“No,” she replied. “C-I-N-O.”
“What do you mean?” he insisted.
“Coastal is No. 1.”
Keeping CINO alive
Over the years, the mascot became Chauncey, yes, a bird, but CINO never completely disappeared from the campus culture.
That’s due in large part to Biddle, who still lives in Conway and has remained the four letters’ biggest champion.
When Biddle was first hired, he taught Spanish, advised the yearbook staff, drove the team bus, taped the ankles of injured athletes and somewhere in the mix coached basketball. He later served on the university’s board of trustees.
Biddle watched Coastal develop into a sprawling miniature city, one that added a football program in 2003.
But when the teal-blooded supporter noticed students weren’t belting out the CINO chants anymore, he started them up again from his seat. Eventually, he said, new generations of students embraced the acronym.
“What you say is what you get,” Biddle said. “If you don’t ever think you’re going to be No. 1, guess what? You’re not going to be No. 1. That’s powerful.”
The prophetic nature of CINO isn’t lost on the latest generation of students, either. After Coastal earned the No. 1 ranking, the student fan organization Chant Nation held an impromptu CINO Party, complete with a CINO cake and CINO posters.
“In high school, I looked at colleges and noticed the rankings,” said freshman Ilene Hill, who helped decorate the CINO Grille for the event. “I knew they were really good.”
Senior Brandi Timmons initially enrolled at another school because her brother, Michael, played football for the Chanticleers in the mid-2000s. She wanted a different college experience for herself. But she now says transferring to Coastal was a great move and she’s enjoyed watching the ascension of the football team.
“I knew we were good,” said Timmons, who received the first slice of CINO cake. “I just didn’t know we were that good. But it’s a really, really great honor to be part of a school that’s No. 1.”
This fall, Coastal officials and student leaders launched a campaign to draw more bodies to the student section at home games.
The marching band incorporated livelier pop music into its routines, the campus fan group was rebranded and the student section began coordinating promotions with the football team. That effort, combined with the squad’s success, has the campus buzzing.
In her two years on the cheerleading squad, junior Ashley Johnson never saw the student support she’s now seeing as a spectator.
“Now that they’re doing better, like the student section’s almost filled,” she said, adding that many students are talking about the No. 1 mark. “It’s all over Instagram, stuff like that.”
During Saturday’s game, Chant Nation plans to have a blackout and is encouraging students to show up in dark attire.
“It will be a good turnout, especially now that we’re No. 1,” said Cameron Driver, one of the leaders of Chant Nation.
Driver said the ranking validates the CINO claim.
“Coastal is really, really No. 1,” he said. “Now it’s not a saying. It’s a fact.”
When she watched the news reports about Coastal’s latest achievement, Courtney said her mind didn’t drift back to 1966. Instead, she thought about three years ago, when Coastal leaders made the controversial decision to fire David Bennett, the only coach the program had ever known, and hire Joe Moglia, a Wall Street billionaire whose most notable accomplishments came in the field of finance, not football.
Despite the dustup surrounding the change, Courtney, who still goes to the games, said it was the right move, one that’s continuing a tradition she’s enjoyed for decades.
“He made us No. 1,” she said. “He’s as much as the spirit of CINO as the original people who sat down on the floor one day in the old student union building and came up with it. I mean, he made the dream really come true.”