Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Silver Celebration & Football Fiesta

A week ago, I told everyone to watch out for announcements coming from the Big South. Hopefully you've seen the stories by now, but it's time for a SHOUT recap of what's going on out there...

First of all, welcome to the 25th Anniversary Season of the Big South!

That's right--the Big South Conference began back in 1983 and now celebrates 25 years of competition with a year-long series of special events. The festivities launched Thursday night (7/24) with the official release of the Big South Anniversary logo (pictured) and the announcement of the "Best of the Best," a list of the top 25 people and performances over the Conference's first 25 years.

As it stands now, the "Best of the Best" is in no particular order--and that's where you come in! The voting is now open--enter your choice for who or what YOU think is the very BEST from a quarter-century of competition. Trust me, it's not an easy call given the many extraordinary student-athletes and their accomplishments. Do you pick a dynasty or a national champion? Olympian or record-holder? Drama or dominance? Team or individual? Whatever your call, cast your vote--the results will be tabulated all year long, resulting in a ranked Top 25 list to be announced in May 2009. You can vote as many days as you like, but only one vote per day will be counted (the extras will be discarded).

The Anniversary Banquet went wonderfully, with many of the honored athletes attending, and most of the 25 "moments" represented by someone affiliated with each historic feat. In addition, the Big South announced its new Leadership Award and the inaugural recipient: Dr. Dick Singleton, the first Big South Commissioner. The Award has also been named in Dr. Singleton's honor as a tribute to his efforts in building the Conference through its early years.

A "Best of the Best" video debuted at the banquet, highlighting the full collection of the 25 moments from 25 years. In the coming weeks and months, individual video vignettes will appear on with details and first-hand accounts of each moment from the list. All the articles, videos, and voting for the 25th Anniversary can be accessed at the Anniversary Media Center on the Big South website. It should also be noted that many Big South partners have stepped up to help with the campaign, especially Royal Purple Synthetic Oil, the presenting sponsor of the 25th Anniversary Season.

Now the Anniversary launch was hardly the only major event for the Conference in the last week...don't forget about Football Media Day: a little fun, a little frantic, and all football.

If you want to get caught up on what happened, you can again turn to The EDGE for the day's highlights: the Preseason Football Video and the Web Interview Session (with coaches and players from every Big South football school). Just as with the Anniversary Season, a special landing page "Media Center" has the articles, videos, and more conveniently located in one spot for you.

The coaches ranged from soft-spoken to outspoken, humorous to cantankerous, and eager to subdued...I leave it to you to figure out which ones might have fit in what categories. The players covered a similar gamut, from perfectly comfortable handling the media to notably shy or quiet, and from happy enthusiasm to dead seriousness.

As for the Conference announcements...
Liberty topped the preseason poll, picked to repeat by the designated voters.
The Preseason All-Conference Team (29 total players named) was led by 8 from Liberty and 7 from Gardner-Webb (plus 5-CCU, 4-CSU, 4-SBU, 1-VMI).
LU's Rashad Jennings (at right) was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
GWU's Mario Brown was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Of the players, Brown (at right) in particular seemed to win over the crowd with his smile and easy-going manner in front of a microphone. I exchanged e-mails with his mother this week--she was looking for the video of her son--and I told her she had plenty to be proud of, considering how well Mario represented himself, his team, and his school. Certainly all seven young men selected to be the face of their respective teams handled the spotlight well overall: Brown, Jennings, Tim Webb (PC), Ryan Ard (CSU), Andy Viola (VMI), Lawrence Lovell (SBU), and Britt Leggett (CCU).

The coaching dynamics should be interesting this year--it's a strong group: Jay Mills at CSU, David Bennett at CCU (pictured), Steve Patton at GWU, Danny Rocco at LU, Bobby Bentley at PC, Chuck Priore at SBU, and Sparky Woods at VMI. The addition of Woods has drawn some extra interest this season, and he naturally earned attention at Media Day. They've been getting anxious in Lexington for Sparky's era of Keydet Football--his first press conference was one of the most viewed On Demand clips The Edge has ever offered!

No great bombshells or revelations, of course, as football teams play things pretty close to the vest this time of year--Media Day is about general preview info and it's unlikely any reporter will get a "scoop" there. One subject getting talked about around the meeting rooms was definitely the names on the out-of-conference schedule this season. Seems like the roster of high-profile opponents gets more significant each season, doesn't it? This year, the Big South takes on the likes of Penn State, Miami (FL), Miami (OH), and Georgia Tech, plus the best the FCS has to offer from Appalachian State and other powerful programs. Add that to the fact that any Big South team can beat a Conference foe on any given weekend (League parity being a real buzz topic among the coaches), and you have some pretty tough slates to play through.

Okay, I'll step aside for now...July's almost done, so we'll have to SHOUT a little louder in August as we countdown to kickoffs across the Big South Conference--thanks for reading the Big South SHOUT!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kicking Off the Kickoffs

Big South football teams begin their gridiron clashes in just over a month, but before they take the field, they take the Media Day.

The time-honored ritual varies a little by conference and sport, but the heart of Media Day remains the same: it's an opportunity to formally roll out the beginning of the season and preview the wide-open possibilities ahead by hearing from coaches and players. Every team has a perfect season intact, every team has a plan, every team has hope.

You can listen in on what's being said by the football coaches of the Big South Conference at Media Day! Once again, the Big South will be streaming interviews from the Charlotte, NC, event on The Big South Edge. The first coach should be on the clock in the streaming interview room at about 1:45pm ET this Friday, July 25th.

Best of all, the streamed interview content is absolutely FREE! Everyone's welcome to watch and listen live, but the program will also be recorded and available for free in The Edge On Demand, so you can check it out any time you like.

Remember that Big South Football is currently a seven-team arrangement:
Charleston Southern Buccaneers,
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers,
Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs,
Liberty Flames,
Presbyterian Blue Hose (not eligible in 2008), Stony Brook Seawolves (Associate Member),
and VMI Keydets.

And, as if all the football excitement is not enough (which it should be), this week also marks the launch of the Big South Conference 25th Anniversary Season be ready to figure out "The Best of the Best" with us. That's all I can tell you until Friday or I'll be hauled off to an undisclosed location to protect Conference secrets!

Expect another SHOUT when we get to the frenzy at the end of the week...including the predicted order of finish from the preseason football poll, the All-Conference team, the Anniversary details, and even more good stuff...thanks for reading--and get ready for another tremendous year in the Big South.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Of Superlatives and Seasons...

Here at SHOUT, we praise many athletes and programs that succeed on and off the field...but today's post is a little different--this isn't just about success, this is about being the BEST.

This week the Big South Conference released the results of its annual balloting held to recognize the Conference Athletes of the Year (Male and Female) and Scholar-Athletes of the Year (also Male & Female awards).

Out of all the student-athletes in the league, that's four tremendous honorees to salute--and in this case, two schools to credit for helping them develop into stars in competition and in class.

Felicitas Mensing of Neuhausen, Germany, graduated CCU in three years with a 4.0 in mathematics...she also won the Bob McCloskey Insurance Big South Conference Graduate Fellowship this year (an award she will apply to her upcoming grad studies at Minnesota).

Jack Leasure of Rochester, New York, graduated this spring with a 3.85 average in history...he is the only player to win the title of Big South Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year three times--and on the court he set the Conference mark for three-pointers in one season (411).

Now let's turn our attention to the 2007-2008 Big South Athletes of the Year--both from Liberty University:

Megan Frazee of Xenia, Ohio, had an amazing season for the red-hot Flames, earning the titles of Big South Women's Basketball Player of the Year and Conference Championship Tournament MVP as a junior. Frazee becomes the first Liberty student and/or women's basketball player to win the Women's AoY honor since Katie Feenstra did so three years ago.

Josh McDougal of Peru, NY, has made winning almost look easy on his path to being the Big South's most-decorated runner ever (14-time All-American)--peaking this season with the 2007 NCAA National Cross Country Championship. You can run out of superlatives trying to describe the collegiate record of this guy...suffice to say he has now won the Howard Bagwell Male Athlete of the Year award THREE CONSECUTIVE TIMES, a first in the nine-year history of the award.

And as tremendous as all those past accomplishments are, I must confess I'm already looking ahead. You see, some folks may think this is the "off season"...well in truth, there's no such thing. Next week is Big South Football Media Day and the launch of our 25th Anniversary Season. As I write this, I'm sitting in an edit suite at WTVI-TV in Charlotte, NC, producing the 2008 Football Preview Video--so I'm in gridiron mode right now. They'll hit the field in about six weeks, so snap your chinstraps and get ready for the change of seasons: not summer to fall, but summer to FOOTBALL...and volleyball, soccer, and still more! Hang on, folks, we're in for some fun this year, and that's a promise--talk to you again soon...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Olympians and Leaders

If your "Beijing Countdown" clock is ticking, here's something you should know--the Big South is going to the Olympics!

Okay, to be fair, we're really talking about a few special athletes representing their countries in the Games, but the Conference takes great pride in having these Olympians on the growing list of Big South athletic stars past and present:

Amber Campbell (former Coastal Carolina All-American) will participate in the hammer throw after placing second in the US Olympic Trials and reaching the necessary "A" level standard. It's redemption for Campbell, who came up just shy of the standard four years ago for Athens.

Taylor Milne (High Point alum and Big South record-holder) will compete in the 1500m run for Canada after placing first in the Canadian trials. He had already established his Olympic standard time at a previous meet, so now he's ready for the Beijing Games.

Emily McColl (active Coastal player, 2nd Team All-Conference in 2007) will rejoin New Zealand's national women's soccer squad for the Olympics. Last year McColl played on the team in the FIFA Women's World Cup (also in China). She plans to return for her senior season following the Games.

Congratulations to the international stars of the Big South Conference!

It's exciting to see members of our extended family compete at the highest level, isn't it? Heck, (name-drop alert) I went to college with Dara Torres--AFTER she had already been to the Olympics twice...who would've thought she'd still be at it nearly 20 years later??? Wow!

Time to segue from leaders in competition to leaders in life, who often wind up being many of the same people: student-athletes who learn to apply the best lessons of sports to the trials of business and society. The Big South Conference seeks to nurture that capability for success in its student-athletes with its 3rd Student-Athlete Leadership Weekend.

The Leadership Weekend conference (previously held in Charlotte and near Asheville) is coming up July 18-20 at the Kingston Plantation and Resort in Myrtle Beach, with the theme "The Race to Lead." Big South Partners Sherwin Williams and Musco Lighting will sponsor the event where about 50 of the finest Big South student-athletes will gather to network, listen to notable guest speakers, receive advice and tools for their future, plus enjoy some time away from campus. Speakers will include former CCU women's basketball player Brooke Weisbrod, Ken Carrick of Coleman, Lew and Associates, Dr. Kadence Otto from Western Carolina University, and Ken Rothmel of Sunbelt Rentals. Anyone seeking more information about the annual Leadership Weekend should contact Dawn Turner in the Conference Office.

That should just about do it for this morning--hope you had a good 4th!

And hey, it's just a little more than two weeks now to the combination of our 25th Anniversary announcements and the annual Football Media Day--get ready for a great year across the Big South!!! (Hmmm...I just realized the excess of exclamations in this post...must be excited--or taking SHOUT too literally)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Label Stable Enabled

With the New Year here (see yesterday's post), SHOUT got a long-overdue upgrade for those interested in sorting through our growing list of posts: labels.

Blogosphere navigators are undoubtedly familiar with the concept, but if you are new to the idea, just think of the labels as a simple index or thumbnail list to get you to particular topics. The list can be found down the right column of SHOUT, below the links.

If you have a particular school, sport, or concept you want to check on, click the desired label and you will have the relevant postings. Just to be quite clear, we have many posts that list every school and several sports in passing, but the labels are primarily designed to focus on those posts that spend time on or emphasize a given subject. It is NOT a comprehensive index of all content references; rather, it is a set of tabs to aid users who like having shortcuts available for key words. To avoid getting drowned in labels, I will try to stick to the member schools, sports, and general themes of SHOUT as options.

That's all for now, just wanted you to know about the new SHOUT feature. Don't forget that we'd love to hear your opinions and observations--feel free to post comments any time...catch you later!