Among the many moving parts and variables that became part of Coastal Carolina’s new reality with its upcoming move to the Sun Belt Conference, athletic director Matt Hogue has been working all fall to lock in the Chanticleers’ football schedule for their 2016 transition year.
When Coastal Carolina announced in September that this would be its final year in the Big South, it became the individual choice of the other conference schools whether they wanted to keep the Chants on the schedule next fall.
So far, Liberty and Monmouth have committed to coming to Conway next season while Presbyterian will keep its scheduled home game with the Chants, Hogue said. Kennesaw State will not play the Chants next year in what would have been a home game for the Owls, while Gardner-Webb (scheduled to be in Boiling Springs, N.C.) and Charleston Southern (originally set to be in Conway) have not yet announced a formal decision.
“Right now we were notified by Kennesaw State that they will not play us so that’s one we know we have to fill. And we continue with discussions with the other schools,” Hogue had said last week, before later getting those commitments from Monmouth and Presbyterian. “Our approach all along has been given that ’16 is a bridge year, we wanted to keep our schedule intact and play all of those opponents.
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“We don’t feel that we’re going to be at any significant advantage. We’ll be transitioning with the addition of scholarships, but we won’t be all the way to 85. And we are working off the premise that because scheduling is difficult and because it’s difficult at this time of the year for the following season that schools with home games against us would want to keep those home games. So we’ll see how things go.”
Coastal Carolina faces a two-year transition period with its move from the FCS level (which limits programs to 63 scholarships) to the FBS (maximum 85 scholarships). The Chants will play a mostly – or perhaps entirely – FCS schedule next year, but they won’t be eligible for the playoffs. In 2017, they’ll play a Sun Belt schedule and be eligible for the conference championship, but they won’t be eligible for any bowl games until 2018.
They retained the Liberty game for next fall as part of an agreement to move the teams’ 2015 regular-season finale in Lynchburg, Va., to a Thursday night game.
Monmouth, meanwhile, will receive a financial guarantee for agreeing to play in Conway.
I think it will be hashed out probably very soon, within the next few weeks or maybe up to a month. But I don’t think anybody wants to wait too long because obviously it’s difficult to find games and not just for us – it’s difficult if someone already has a schedule and they lose us, they’re in the same boat we’re in.
CCU athletic director Matt Hogue
As for the originally scheduled non-conference opponents for 2016, those games have contracts that are not affected by the Chants’ conference switch. So Hogue said he was still expecting home games with Furman, Central Connecticut State and Florida A&M, and a road game with Hampton. Coastal Carolina already had one game to fill on its non-conference slate to begin with, so the program continues to evaluate options.
“I think it will be hashed out probably very soon, within the next few weeks or maybe up to a month,” he said last week. “But I don’t think anybody wants to wait too long because obviously it’s difficult to find games and not just for us – it’s difficult if someone already has a schedule and they lose us, they’re in the same boat we’re in.”
The Chants have the benefit of flexibility working in their favor. Hogue said the program could use the final week of November or even the first week of December to pick up an FBS opponent if need be, that playing 12 games is a possibility and, in general, all options are on the table.
“We’ve talked to a number of institutions, so there’s Plan Bs, Plan Cs, there’s plenty of contingencies,” he said. “We’ve stayed on the phone a lot with schools about potential scheduling, so it’s something we’re prepared for. ...
“We’re open to anything. We’re open to potentially playing someone twice if that helps someone get a home game. So I think one thing you’ll know from us and obviously from the way Coach [Joe] Moglia looks at it, we’re going to look at every out-of-the-box solution. But it will be a unique year above all else because we’re going through the transition and have to get through that bridge year.”