Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy New Year (!?!)

It may not feel like it to you, but it will be a New Year in the Big South at midnight tonight.

June will draw to a close and July will begin, making this the 2008-09 academic and athletic year for the Conference.

That move from old to new also brings a change in membership for the Big South Conference: you can now officially include Presbyterian College and Gardner-Webb University as members of this ten-team league!

As a matter of fact, the folks in Boiling Springs have been so excited about GWU and the Big South, they even included a countdown to the big moment on the Runnin' Bulldogs' website. Meanwhile, the buzz in Clinton remains on the topic of PC being included in the standings and such, as reviewed in great detail inside the June 13 SHOUT posting.

July's arrival, in addition to celebrating Independence Day, marking a new year on paper for the Conference, and heralding the arrival of the new members, also means we can count down to some big goings-on Only weeks away, July 24 and 25 will be two big days for fans of the Big South--look out for the always-anticipated Football Media Day activities, plus some announcements and events regarding the upcoming 25th Anniversary season that are still hush-hush...stay tuned.

Well, folks, try to beat the heat and enjoy summer--and it's okay, you can start talking college football if you want...holding it in too long isn't good for you.

To close, Big South SHOUT offers a great big WELCOME TO THE FAMILY for everyone associated with Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian--we are happy to have you in the Conference and we look forward to great partnerships and great competition in the many seasons ahead!!!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Good Sports

Some much-needed rain is falling in the Charlotte area now and it's time for a SHOUT!

Plenty of Big South fans keep up with what teams have won championships on the fields and courts of play, but do you know what teams have won the greatest respect from their peers when it comes to sportsmanship?

The Big South Conference polls teams in every sport at the conclusion of their competitive seasons to see whom the student-athletes consider the best examples of sportsmanship. An institution lists its top three (not voting for themselves, of course), they get corresponding point values, all the points are added up, and a winner for that sport is announced by the Conference office. At the very end, an overall winner is declared by combining the results of the various Big South sports and determining who got the highest percentage of their possible points. For the last two years, the overall award was earned by the student-athletes of VMI.

Here's how things have been going this year, with several spring sportsmanship awards announced and only baseball left to report...

Liberty (5.5): Men's Cross Country, Volleyball, Women's Indoor Track, Men's Golf, Men's Outdoor Track, Women's Outdoor Track (tie)

Radford (3.5): Men's Indoor Track, Men's Basketball, Women's Tennis, Women's Golf (tie)

VMI (3): Women's Soccer, Men's Soccer, Football

High Point (2.5): Women's Cross Country, Men's Tennis, Women's Outdoor Track (tie)

Charleston Southern (1.5): Women's Basketball, Women's Golf (tie)

Winthrop (1): Softball

No first-place finishes for CCU & UNCA / baseball results still pending.

Of course, don't make the mistake of thinking that fewer of these honors makes a school out to be a collection of poor sports! We think everyone in the Big South does a good job upholding honor and dignity--this award merely thanks the ones who are the best at doing that all year long from the perspective of their fellow student-athletes.

Geographic bonus note: Virginia schools have claimed 12 of the 17 awards issued so far (NC and SC schools 2.5 each).

Have a great weekend, sports fans...

Friday, June 13, 2008

PC Piece for PC Pleas

The alliterative title may be overselling it a bit, but there was an interesting development recently involving transitioning Big South Conference member Presbyterian College...translate the post headline as "a politically correct decision settles a Presbyterian College request".

As many of you probably know by now, the Blue Hose of PC in Clinton, SC, have played D-II for some time and have begun the transitioning process into D-I and membership in the Big South. NCAA policies and timelines being what they are, PC does not just get to jump in and play--there is a waiting/transition period: in this case, a four-year period altogether.

In the meantime, you have been seeing Presbyterian showing up on most Conference materials starting in 2007-08, with the PC teams incorporated in all schedules starting in 2008-09. The Blue Hose will not be fully vested and eligible across the board for everything that comes with D-I and the Big South until 2011-12. Seriously...I told you it was a long wait, but again--those are the rules.

So, here's the twist that took place when the Conference leadership got together for the Spring Meetings in Hilton Head: PC campaigned for a bigger stake in the Big South club...and won. Director of Athletics William "Bee" Carlton pled his case for proper recognition for his student-athletes who would be competing on the field of play but would not have their accomplishments acknowledged in the standings under the status quo. The debate that followed looked at the matter from more angles than I'm going to burden you with here, but suffice to say that the idea gained momentum and support to the degree that the matter looked far different when the meetings adjourned than it did when they convened.

Originally, PC games would be scheduled, but not count toward Conference standings/seedings and therefore would not impact Conference championships and awards--until such point as Presbyterian was fully eligible (sidebar: transitioning schools can "fast-track" two sports for eligibility in two years rather than four...for PC, those sports are softball and men's tennis).

When all was said and done, the Presbyterian College Blue Hose games would count in the Conference standings for all sports, PC was to be listed in the standings at the place befitting the school's record (not at the bottom or as 0-0), student-athletes would be eligible for Conference awards during and at the end of the season, and PC could even win a regular season championship (excluding football this upcoming year, since PC does not play a full Conference schedule)--but the school cannot compete in tournaments or advance to any post-season play; that part of the NCAA structure was not altered in any way.

It will make some things very interesting, especially if you're trying to keep stats straight, like the folks in our PR this scenario, Presbyterian will be recognized by the Big South for more than by the NCAA--so you could see someone post a record acknowledged by the Conference but not by the national leader boards, etc. Stay tuned for the developments in this area over the next couple of seasons.

Odds favor the impact being a small one--after all, PC is moving up in level and transitions like that are not always easy. It would be foolhardy to forecast a glut of Presbyterian championships during the transition years...but it's not out of the question to see the "new kids" win something (remember the surprises the Blue Hose threw down in football last year). It's a tricky situation...after all, most of us would agree that the athletes are competing just as hard on the fields/courts/etc. of play and deserve the merits (and demerits) that come with winning and losing, just as all the other schools the same time, it's not the way we've seen transitions like this handled before, hence the debate and discussion that occurred.

Either way, the proposal that started with PC was voted through (after some alteration and amendments), so look for Presbyterian College to be treated like everybody else for the most part in the season ahead (just don't look for them in the tournaments).

Why no fuss with Gardner-Webb, also coming into the Big South? No transition necessary: the Runnin' Bulldogs were already D-I, playing in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and can begin as a fully eligible member immediately. At least that is a simple matter...more complicated, apparently, is which way the Runnin' Bulldog should face--word has it he needs to look left now, but I only have the "right" dog picture, which may in fact be the "wrong" dog picture...we'll settle that later...

And a quick note to close--CONGRATS to Big South staffer Nic Bowman, who got married this past that's a reason for a SHOUT-out !!!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Outstanding in Their Fields

Well, it's time to put a wrap on Big South baseball for this year.

Although it would be really nice to say that more games were ahead, our last Conference contender has finished now that Coastal Carolina lost the Cary, NC, Super Regional series to the UNC Tar Heels in two games.

North Carolina was the nation's number two overall seed and the Heels had several opportunities to demonstrate their worthiness for Omaha, but don't sell the Chants short--after winning the Big South, they hosted a Regional and won their way through it (as seen in the asterisk-shaped celebration pictured at right), then fought a tough battle in the Super Regional in falling to UNC.

I was at the USA Baseball Training Center in Cary for Sunday's game (UNC has used the USA facility as a home site this year during renovations to the field on campus in Chapel Hill), and let me tell you--everybody on the field (umpires included, of course) and in the stands should get credit for withstanding the brutal heat to play that game or support their teams. Wow, what a scorcher! Even trying to take extra steps to handle the conditions could not properly prepare you for frying like bacon out there--late July, maybe I could understand, but it's not supposed to soar past 100 like that here in early June! Oh well, no more whining, it was worth it for all the CCU and Big South fans to make the trek into ACC territory to root for the Coastal squad even with the weather. You can't hang your head when you've earned one of the last 16 team slots in the country (still, the College World Series was tantalizingly close)...

In any case, the month of June also means baseball honors and the Major League Baseball Draft.

Five Big South stars made that squad--all of them from Palmetto State teams: Charleston Southern had the trio of shortstop Taylor Black, outfielder Steve Antolik, and designated hitter Derek Smith; Coastal Carolina's Scott Woodward at third base; and Winthrop DH Eddie Rohan (pictured at right). Add to that recognition CCU catcher Dock Doyle making 2nd Team All-American (and the Johnny Bench Award watch list--the top collegiate catcher honor will be given out June 27th). While on the subject of trophies, the Wallace Award will be given in July to the top collegiate baseball player...finalists will be announced soon, but the list of candidates includes the aforementioned Mr. Doyle (pictured below) and UNC Asheville RHP Alan DeRatt.

Now to the topic of the MLB all, 14 players got selected out of Big South schools in rounds 5-38 of the First-Year Player Draft last Thursday and Friday. That figure matches the total from the previous year and comes only two players shy of the Conference record (16 were drafted in 2005). The Chanticleers had two first-day draftees, each taken in the 5th round: pitcher Pete Andrelczyk (148th overall by the Marlins) and Dock Doyle (164th overall by the Mets). Coastal wound up with the most picks (5) of Big South teams, but six schools had at least one: CCU-5, VMI-3, UNCA-2, Liberty-2, Radford-1, High Point-1. Check out the full list of Conference draftees at Big South

That might be it for today...I'll part with a couple quick hits of information for you--hate to say this, but High Point University will be dropping its men's and women's tennis programs (never like to report sports leaving the scene, but facts are facts)...and in business news, Big South Conference partner JumpTV is merging with NeuLion to create an even more powerful presence in the ever-growing sports internet-video market (merger announced just this morning).
Until next time, keep an ear open for the Big South SHOUT!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spring Cleaning

Lest you think that SHOUT fell into a deep hole, I'll begin by agreeing that the lapse since the last post was longer than intended--things have certainly been busy around here! Time to clean up the outstanding issues, at least briefly, so that we get all caught up to June...

The 2008 Big South Baseball Championship wrapped up with Coastal Carolina taking the title, and, while it should not be considered a surprise to see the top seed snag the win, the tournament did have its share of drama--including Liberty's surge to push Coastal into a second and deciding game on the last day of play.

Since then, the Chanticleers hosted one of the NCAA Baseball Regionals and dispatched the visitors (Alabama, East Carolina, Columbia) to advance to this weekend's "Super Regional" at the North Carolina Tar Heels. The games will be played at Cary, NC, on Saturday (12pm), Sunday (1pm), and Monday if necessary (time TBA), and all carried on the ESPN family of networks.

Meanwhile, outdoor track marches on with continued success, and the Big South powered through the NCAA Regional meet to place ten male automatic qualifiers to Nationals and one female at-large participant. The Men's OTF representation of the Big South exceeds that of most of the nation's college conferences and falls behind only ten leagues (largely of the major college heavyweight variety). Congratulations to all these stellar athletes who have gone farther, faster, or higher than the competition to reach the highest level--great job, everyone!

Don't forget that as the year has been putting on its final touches in the fields of play, additional action has been going on behind the scenes on behalf of the institutions and student-athletes of the Big South Conference with the annual Spring Meetings. All last week, the member school CEOs (presidents, chancellors, etc.), Directors of Athletics, and other upper-level administrators joined the Conference Staff for a series of meetings and discussions on a variety of issues facing the Big South in the coming seasons. I won't belabor the fine points here, but in coming installments we may touch on a few of the decisions and how they will impact what you see as a fan in terms of championship events, team standings, and other such matters.

Finally, a couple of individual notes of gratitude--
First, we thank Bernadette McGlade, who has done a commendable job as Coordinator of Officials for the Big South in women's basketball (alongside her duties as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference)...she is moving on to be the new Commissioner of the Atlantic 10 Conference and we wish her all the best!

Next, we salute Associate Commissioner James Companion, who has completed ten great years of service in Big South Conference Marketing, where he has taken Conference partnerships and sponsorships beyond all expectations. Fortunately for us, James is just celebrating that anniversary and is not going anywhere else (or so we hope)!

Thanks also to all our viewers and contributors who kept The EDGE alive and well this year, as we enjoyed a slate of about 525 streamed events--unprecedented in Big South Conference history. That will be a tough act to follow in the coming academic/athletic year, but we'll certainly give it a shot...