The Coastal Carolina football team spent a few hours at a Topgolf in Jacksonville, Fla., last Friday.
The men’s soccer team took a manatee-viewing tour on inflatable inner tubes at Blue Spring State Park off the St. Johns River in Orange City, Fla., on Sunday.
The women’s golf team attended the Atlanta Braves’s 10-5 win over the Washington Nationals at SunTrust Park on Friday evening, and the men’s golf team spent much of Sept. 11 at the Mall of America outside Minneapolis.
It isn’t what any of the team members thought before their seasons started that they would be doing at this point in their seasons, but you have to find ways to entertain yourself when you don’t have a home.
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Since S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster ordered a mandatory closure of schools and state government offices in Horry County beginning last Tuesday in advance of Hurricane Florence’s arrival, the Coastal Carolina campus has been shut down, sending several of CCU’s athletic teams on vagabond journeys across the country.
The campus and university housing is closed at least through next Friday, Sept. 28, so students can’t return to the campus until Sept. 29 at the earliest. That leaves CCU athletic administrators and team coaches with decisions to make on their next moves.
There are approximately 200 student-athletes impacted in sports that are in session this fall, according to CCU director of athletics Matt Hogue.
“We try to put plans together first and foremost for teams participating in their championship seasons,” Hogue said. “When evacuation orders are called, the best thing is for them to stay together. If we can salvage contests we attempt to do that.
“We take a look at each situation, take it sport by sport and try to determine the best course of action.”
Hogue said Coastal Carolina has an emergency management office on campus that keeps the athletics department updated, and the school works with a travel agency to assist with team travel. Adjustments to extend travel are made accordingly.
“I think everybody’s in good spirits,” Hogue said. “I think there are a lot of positives for our teams being kept together. You try to make the best of what happens and move forward. It’s not going to be ideal. Hopefully in the next couple weeks we’ll be able to get back to the normal as much as possible.”
Though CCU’s campus has been minimally impacted by the storm, the campus remains closed because it is dangerous for students, faculty and staff to attempt to return to campus with major flooding occurring throughout the area.
The situation has become commonplace over the past four years, as major storms in the fall have forced the cancellation of classes on three occurrences since 2015. That has led university officials to consider plans for the future, including reciprocal agreements with other universities to assist during school closures, Hogue said.
“It’s probably going to warrant looking at a new framework of how do you handle when a storm comes though. It can be challenging logistically,” Hogue said. “The key is to continue to make plans forward and think of every eventual possibility.”
▪ Football: The team bused to Raleigh, N.C., last Tuesday, where it stayed overnight before defeating Campbell 58-21 about an hour away in Buies Creek, N.C., the next day, then boarded buses headed to Jacksonville, Fla.
The buses carried football players, coaches and staff, as well as some of their family members and pets. The team arrived in Jacksonville about 3 a.m. Thursday and has been there since.
“I think the attitude of our coaches and their families, and all of our players, and even all the dogs we have here has really been extraordinary,” CCU football coach Joe Moglia said. “As important as our games are, and clearly they are critical to us, the priority has been the safety of our players and our coaches and their families.”
The Chants (2-1) have been practicing at high schools in the Jacksonville area and will fly to Lafayette, La., on Friday for their Sun Belt Conference opener Saturday night against the Ragin Cajuns.
In addition to practicing, the Chants have gone as a team to see the movies The Predator and White Boy Rick, and watched college football Saturday, the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin boxing match Saturday night, and NFL football Sunday and Monday on TVs set up in a dining room. They’ve also had a daily study hall.
“This is nine days now we’ve been out. The guys are a bit homesick but their attitude has been exemplary,” Moglia said Wednesday. “We are adjusting as best we can to get the job done that we need to.”
Some family members have left the team, and some players and family members won’t be making the trip to Louisiana, as is customary for away games. Those players will be busing back to campus when they safely can from Jacksonville.
▪ Men’s golf: The team already played two tournaments during its time on the road, finishing 13th in the Gopher Invitational from Sept. 9-10 in Minnesota and fifth in the Northern Invitational hosted by Northern Illinois at Rich Harvest Farms outside Chicago on Saturday and Sunday, when junior Zack Taylor finished second individually at 2-under 214.
The team flew back to the Grand Strand on Monday afternoon and team members are staying in off-campus housing, awaiting the campus’ reopening.
The team left Sept. 7 for its opening tournament so it was on the road for 11 days. It had packed for four days.
“It has been a very interesting first 11 days to our season,” CCU men’s golf coach Jim Garren said. “We knew going on the road there was a chance we’d have a storm, but never did we think we’d be on the road all this time.”
The Chants remained at a hotel in Minneapolis on Sept. 10, rented a van and drove to Chicago after visiting Mall of America. The team played and practiced for three days before their next competitive round.
The team had six players on the trip – Taylor, Luis Ruiz, Morgan Deneen, Wes Artac, States Fort and freshman Brady Hinkle, who played as an individual in the two tournaments. The team’s three other team members left the area – Connor Newton and Tyler Gray are in Auburn, Ala., with Connor’s parents, and senior Daniel Overas went home to Norway.
The Chants’ next tournament is next weekend in New Mexico. Garren would like to have qualifying for playing spots, but because it’s too dangerous for Gray and Newton to drive back, he doesn’t yet have that luxury.
“We’re not going to put anybody’s safety in jeopardy, so we won’t have guys driving,” Garren said. “It’s a unique situation I’ve never had to deal with in 10, 11 years of doing this. If we have to take the same guys we’ll take the same guys, but it’s early in the year and we’d like to open things up and have some competition.”
▪ Women’s golf: The team had to leave nearly a week early for its season-opening tournament on Monday and Tuesday – the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate in Knoxville, Tenn. – and is now adding a tournament this weekend since it can’t return to campus.
The team traveled to Augusta, Ga., last Tuesday and played the Augusta University course that it will play in a tournament in March, played and practiced for a couple days at Kennesaw State outside Atlanta, and played Farm Golf Club in Dalton, Ga., on its way to Knoxville, where it finished 14th.
The Chants are now essentially taking the place of UNC Wilmington in the Lady Paladin Invitational at Furman University in Greenville from Friday through Sunday because UNCW can’t get to the event, and is staying in a hotel in Greenville. The team went to the movies Wednesday afternoon, and coach Katie Quinney was on her ninth load of laundry on the trip.
▪ Men’s soccer: The Chants had two scheduled home matches against Radford last Tuesday and George Mason on Sunday canceled, but found a temporary home for six days in Orlando, Fla.
The team trained in extreme heat at the home of the MLS’s Orlando City Soccer Club, Stetson University and Central Florida University, while also taking the manatee tour and going to a bowling alley. The Chants have already traveled to Williamsburg, Va., in advance of their game Friday at William & Mary. “It has been a very long trip,” CCU men’s soccer coach Shaun Docking said.
▪ Women’s soccer: The team managed to play one of its two scheduled matches last week by moving a home game against Little Rock to Kennesaw State on Friday. The Chants earned their first Sun Belt Conference win of the season, 2-1.
They remain on the road and are headed from Georgia to Alabama this week, with matches at South Alabama on Friday and at Troy on Sunday.
▪ Volleyball: The team’s Coastal Carolina Classic set for Sept. 13-15 at CCU was canceled because of the storm, and because the volleyball team was not able to remain together, its scheduled Sun Belt matches this weekend at Georgia State and Georgia Southern on Friday and Saturday have been postponed.
The team attempted to evacuate to Dallas, Miami or Pittsburgh, to stay together and perhaps play a few matches, but all flight and charter bus options were exhausted and most of the team returned to their hometowns. The team’s five students from Europe split up between locations in northern Virginia and Atlanta. The team’s next match is scheduled for Sept. 28 against Louisiana-Lafayette at the HTC Center.
▪ Cross country: The cross country teams had a meet at Winthrop on Saturday canceled and are off until Sept. 29.