Tuesday was a big day for Coastal Carolina University coaches and athletes. It was equally as big for the school’s dance team, marching band and cheerleaders.
Coastal Carolina University President David DeCenzo formally accepted an invitation for the school to join the Sun Belt Conference during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. The consensus of many students, officials and Conway business owners is that the move will be good for everyone.
The move gives Coastal national exposure while improving the local economy and giving coaches a better selection of athletes, officials said. The upper-tiered conference also gives the football team a chance to participate in a New Year’s Day bowl game, DeCenzo said.
Coastal’s “historic” move doesn’t just affect ball players – the marching band, cheerleaders, dance team and colorguard will share some of the limelight in the new conference.
Bobo Smith, sophomore and band member, said the new conference will provide national recognition to CCU, which should reel in more fans. More fans at the games means a bigger spotlight on the pep squads.
“It’s good from a band standpoint because it increases exposure, so it’ll build a better fan base,” Smith said.
“And then we’ll get a lot more attention and support because of the bigger fan base,” added Alanna Swain, freshman clarinet player.
9,214 Seats currently in Brooks Stadium
More than 20,000seats After an expansion to complete the lower bowl on the end of the field that connects to Adkins Field House and adding a second level on the side closest to S.C. 544
The university will begin the process immediately of expanding Brooks Stadium from 9,214 seats to more than 20,000, completing the lower bowl on the end of the field that connects to Adkins Field House and adding a second level on the side closest to S.C. 544.
The NCAA requires Football Bowl Subdivision programs to maintain an average attendance of at least 15,000 over a rolling two-year cycle.
Filling up the student section is one of Kyla Smith’s goals. The freshman cheerleader said the expansion of the stadium, combined with the traveling fan base of some Sun Belt schools, is a challenge she’s looking forward to tackling.
“We’re going to be up against better known teams with bigger student sections,” Smith said. “We definitely want to compete against those other teams and their fans.”
The football team, ranked No. 5 in the FCS national polls, will continue with its quest this year for an FCS national championship, and the school’s other athletic programs will continue competing as members of the Big South for one more season.
Effective July 1, 2016, all programs except for football will become full-fledged members of the Sun Belt while the football program must complete the NCAA’s mandated two-year transition period before being fully eligible for bowl games in 2018.
Now coaches and administrators can recruit athletes that are looking to attend upper-tiered conference schools, said Kristin Selvage, Coastal’s women’s lacrosse coach.
“It’s exciting for all my colleagues because it’s an opportunity for them to grow and recruit a whole new caliber of athletes, which is exactly what these coaches want,” she said.
We were already on the map, but now we’re on the map in bigger letters.”
Denny Powers, CCU director of veterans services
Bringing in new students and bigger teams – along with their families and fans – should contribute to the success of the local economy as well, Selvage said. The Grand Strand’s tourism industry is strong, but the addition of CCU’s new bigger competitors and their supporting staff will just make the economy stronger.
“This type of tourism is different – it brings those athlete’s fans and families here,” Selvage said. “Hopefully it’ll stimulate businesses around the college, too.”
Diane McFadden, owner of Dirty Deb’s Sports Lounge in Conway, hopes the move boosts her business. The lounge is about two miles from CCU on S.C. 544 and caters to an older crowd, but McFadden hopes the new conference brings in more families and students.
“Hopefully this will get locals more excited for college football – especially in this bar,” she said.
Besides the national exposure and boost to the local economy, Coastal Carolina students can now boast their Chanticleer pride to a wider audience. Denny Powers, director of veterans services, said the national attention should lure more students to Coastal and attract much more national coverage.
Powers said the school is already recognized “because of who we are, where we are and the success of our sports teams,” but the Sun Belt will skyrocket Coastal’s fame.
“We were already on the map, but now we’re on the map in bigger letters,” he said.
Claire Byun: 626-0381, @Claire_TSN