Carolinas Conference will cut deficits at College of Charleston, Citadel, CSU

Column by Gene Sapakoff Postandcourier.com
May 16 2015

LSU is building an $84.75 million leisure project complete with a lazy river that spells out “LSU”and a 21,000-square-foot sun deck. Never mind Louisiana’s projected cut of $500 million in higher education funding that might mean layoffs for tenured LSU professors.

Meanwhile, CBSSports.com reports that 11 major NCAA conferences claimed in response to lawsuits filed by former football players Martin Jenkins (Clemson) and Shawne Alston (West Virginia) that “many, if not most” schools will cut athletic scholarships if student-athletes are allowed to be paid.

Red ink is flowing through smaller conferences, too, and it’s no leisurely ride through campus. It’s a flood of concern over the growing separation between “haves” and “have nots” as Power 5 schools add cost-of-attendance stipends to their scholarship offers.

More sensible mid-major conference alignments are as overdue as the “Full House” reunion.

Geography 101 is such an underrated class.

For instance, the College of Charleston baseball team played three games at Northeastern University in Brookline, Mass., this week. Attendance at Thursday’s game: 107. Which means that after the Cougars traveled 980 miles to Boston, there were more players and workers at Friedman Diamond than fans. And the College of Charleston recently cut its men’s and women’s swimming programs.

A Carolinas Conference makes too much sense to ignore, not just for the College of Charleston, The Citadel and Charleston Southern but for almost every mid-major athletic department in the Carolinas.

Charleston Southern shouldn’t have to play conference football games at Monmouth. The Southern Conference shouldn’t be scrambling for replacement schools. Proximity means never having to put your phone on airplane mode for road trips.

So many reasons

Proposed league: Carolinas Conference
Purpose: Shorter trips mean more time for academics, reduction of travel costs, real rivalries, more visiting fans at road games, better overall attendance numbers, less travel costs for family members of student-athletes, more fan interest.

South Carolina Division
(10):
The Citadel
Charleston Southern
College of Charleston
Coastal Carolina
Furman
Presbyterian
S.C. State
USC Upstate
Winthrop
Wofford

North Carolina Division (10):
Campbell
Davidson
Elon
Gardner-Webb
High Point
UNC Asheville
UNC Charlotte
UNC Greensboro
UNC Wilmington
Western Carolina

It’s not perfect.

UNC Charlotte wants to play big-time basketball, and football. The Davidson men’s basketball team wags its athletic department and just finished atop the Atlantic 10 in its first year in the conference. The Wildcats probably can’t be talked back down a level, even if it’s for their own good in the long run. S.C. State might want to remain in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with other historically black colleges and universities, though closer sports foes will help the school with its well-documented deficits.

The Carolinas Conference with a few subtractions or additions still works (and won’t be confused with a Division II Conference Carolinas that should be renamed for including non-Carolinas schools). There are enough football schools. Basketball intrigue abounds, Davidson and UNC Charlotte or not. It projects as a strong baseball league that would get two NCAA tournament bids more years than not.

The drawbacks drown in black ink and a positive vibe. Let LSU have its lazy river, and watch Alabama and Auburn and South Carolina and Clemson answer with better, longer, lazier lazy rivers. It’s time that Carolinas Conference schools set the tone for other mid-major realignment plans across the nation’s hard, dry college athletics landscape.

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