Monday, December 22, 2008

Recent History Lesson

As promised, a holiday week retrospective...and this isn't even the whole year, only the current academic/athletic calendar: a listing of just some of the big things that have happened this fall and early winter for the Big South Conference, courtesy of Assistant Commissioner Mark Simpson (and we therefore offer a big SHOUT-out to Mark S.)...enjoy the look back, and Happy Holidays to one and all!!!


2008-09 BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

July 24, 2008
The Big South officially kicks off its 25th Anniversary with a special banquet honoring the Top 25 “Best of the Best” moments in Conference history. The Conference also unveils its new tagline, “Developing Leaders Through Athletics.”

July 24, 2008
The Big South Conference, as part of its 25th Anniversary celebration, presents the League’s new Leadership Award to former Commissioner, Dr. Edward M. “Dick” Singleton. The award is named in honor of Dr. Singleton and was created as part of the Big South’s “Developing Leaders Through Athletics” initiative to recognize a former Big South student-athlete or administrator that has exhibited exemplary leadership and character during their professional career.

August 15, 2008
At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, former Radford distance runner Goran Nava establishes a new Serbian national record in the 1,500-meter event with a time of 3:42.92. He finished sixth in Heat 2 of the first round and was 0.62 seconds off of the semifinal qualifying time.

August 18, 2008
At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, former Coastal Carolina women’s track & field standout Amber Campbell places 21st in the preliminaries of the hammer throw. She achieved a mark of 67.86 meters on her first throw, but then faulted on her final two throws in attempting to reach the top 12 to advance to the finals. She fell just short, as the final qualifying distance was 69.36 meters. However, Campbell was the top American finisher in the 50-competitor field.

August 30, 2008
A record seven former Big South football players made opening day NFL rosters in some capacity: Gardner-Webb’s Brian Johnston (Chiefs), Charleston Southern’s Maurice Price (Chiefs), Liberty’s Vince Redd (Patriots practice squad), Coastal Carolina’s Jerome Simpson (Bengals), Coastal Carolina’s Quinton Teal (Panthers), Coastal Carolina’s Tyler Thigpen (Chiefs) and Coastal Carolina’s Mike Tolbert (Chargers).

Sept. 8, 2008
Liberty’s football team is ranked No. 25 in this week’s The Sports Network poll, the school’s first national ranking since 1998, when the Flames were ranked tied for No. 24 with Troy State in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Division I-AA poll released on Aug. 31, 1998. The ranking marks the fifth-straight season the Big South has had a nationally-ranked football team.

Sept. 8, 2008
Winthrop men’s soccer player Matthew Skonicki is named to the CollegeSoccerNews.com and TopDrawerSoccer.com National Team of the Week for his performance the week of Sept. 1-7.

Sept. 16, 2008
Former Charleston Southern baseball pitcher Todd Parnell makes his Major League debut with the New York Mets, pitching a scoreless eighth inning against the Washington Nationals. Parnell, who was called up to the Mets on Sept. 1, became the second CSU pitcher in less than two months to appear in the majors.

Sept. 17, 2008
Former Coastal Carolina football player Tyler Thigpen is named the Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback for the Sept. 21 road game at the Atlanta Falcons. It is Thigpen’s first career NFL start.

Sept. 20, 2008
High Point University is featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. The special features the transformation taking place at HPU, including the school’s growth in academics, as well as student life on the HPU campus.

Sept. 23, 2008
Former Winthrop men’s basketball player Michael Jenkins is selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Albany Patroons in the 2008 Continental Basketball Association (CBA) draft. Big South all-time leading scorer Reggie Williams was selected in the fifth round (23rd pick overall) by the Pittsburgh Xplosion.

Oct. 5, 2008
Former Coastal Carolina All-American golfer Dustin Johnson wins the PGA Turning Stone Resort Championship, his first career win on the PGA Tour. Johnson earns $1.08 million with the victory and moves from 128th to 41st on the PGA Tour money list. The win also earned him a two-year exemption on the tour, as well as berths in next year’s season-opening Mercedes Championship, plus the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship majors.

Oct. 15, 2008
Coastal Carolina University announces the addition of Zola (Budd) Pieterse as a volunteer assistant coach for the track & field programs. Best known for training and competing barefoot, Pieterse was a two-time Olympian, having competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Games and the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Oct. 18, 2008
Liberty’s Sam Chelanga won the Pre-Nationals Cross Country race in Terre Haute, Ind., with a record time of 22:51.3 in the men’s 8K race. His time broke the course, meet, school and Big South Conference 8K records, which were previously held by former Liberty National Champion Josh McDougal (22:56.4 at the 2007 Pre-Nationals).

Oct. 28, 2008
Coastal Carolina’s men’s golf team is named Golfweek’s National Men’s Golf Team of the Week for its final-hole victory at the Bank of Tennessee at The Ridges Intercollegiate. Entering the final round, the Chanticleers were tied for second, two shots behind the leader, and the squad posted a 1-under on the final hole to claim the team victory.

Oct. 30-Nov. 6, 2008
A total of 17 Big South student-athletes are named ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District for the fall season. A League-record six football players were honored, in addition to six women’s soccer players, four men’s soccer players and one volleyball student-athlete.

Nov. 2, 2008
VMI’s women’s soccer team completes the largest turnaround in Big South Conference history, as the Keydets tie for second-place in the regular-season standings with a 5-3-1 League record. VMI was tied for last in 2007 with a 1-6 mark, and entered the 2008 season with a 2-29 record in Big South games.

Nov. 6, 2008
Coastal Carolina Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) and University Professor and Coordinator of Health Promotion Sharon Thompson is named the South Carolina Governor’s 2008 Professor of the Year for four-year institutions of higher education. The prestigious annual award recognizes excellence in teaching and student advising.

Nov. 10, 2008
Liberty men’s cross country runner Sam Chelanga is featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” section for his dominating performance at the Oct. 18 Pre-Nationals meet.

Nov. 11, 2008
Winthrop men’s soccer player Matt Lacey receives two national honors as he is named to the Soccer America National Team of the Week and the CollegeSoccerNews.com National Team of the Week for leading Winthrop to the regular-season championship.

Nov. 13, 2008
Radford women’s soccer player Caitlyn Roan is named to the Soccer America Women’s Team of the Week following her MVP performance during the Big South Tournament.

Nov. 14, 2008
VMI’s men’s basketball team defeats the Kentucky Wildcats, 111-103 at Rupp Arena to open the 2008-09 college basketball season. The victory propels the two-time defending national scoring champion Keydets back into the national spotlight, as the team goes on to receive a Top 25 vote in the Associated Press poll, as well as a No. 25 ranking in the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, its first-ever appearance in the national poll.

Nov. 15, 2008
Liberty sophomore Sam Chelanga wins the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships, helping the Flames match their highest-ever finish at the regional meet (fifth-place). It is the fourth time in five years that a Liberty runner has won the regional meet. Chelanga qualifies for the NCAA Cross Country Championship with the victory.

Nov. 16, 2008
Liberty cross country runner Jordan McDougal receives an at-large berth to the NCAA Cross Country Championships based on the strength of his 12th-place finish at the Southeast Regional. McDougal will join teammate Sam Chelanga at the national meet, marking the first time since Liberty joined the NCAA Division I ranks that the Flames will send multiple runners to the Cross Country Championship finals.

Nov. 17, 2008
Winthrop forward Matthew Skonicki is named to the CollegeSoccerNews.com National Team of the Week for the second time this season.

Nov. 18, 2008
Liberty and UNC Asheville meet in the earliest Big South men’s basketball Conference opener, as the game is part of ESPN’s special “24 Hours of College Basketball Marathon” television program and is broadcast live nationally on ESPN. The Bulldogs defeat the Flames, 84-56 at the Justice Center in Asheville.

Nov. 18, 2008
Liberty volleyball player Kallie Corbin is honored by Collegiate Volleyball Update (CVU.com) as a Top Performer for matches played between Nov. 10-16. Corbin was honored by CVU.com twice during the 2007 season.

Nov. 20, 2008
Liberty’s Sam Chelanga is named the USTFCCCA Southeast Region Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year. He is the second consecutive Liberty athlete to receive the regional honor.

Nov. 20, 2008
Former Coastal Carolina men’s golf All-American Dustin Johnson is named one of five finalists for the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year award. Players were nominated for each respective award by the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council and Player Directors.

Nov. 24, 2008
For the second consecutive year, the Liberty men’s cross country team placed a runner in the top two at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, as Flames sophomore Sam Chelanga battled Oregon senior Galen Rupp neck-and-neck, before Rupp edged Chelanga in the final straightaway. Chelanga earned All-American honors with his Runner-up finish.

Nov. 24, 2008
After a 4-0 start, Coastal Carolina’s women’s basketball team receives votes in the Associated Press Top 25 national rankings, its first-ever appearance in the AP poll in school history.

November 2008
A total of 17 Big South student-athletes are named ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District for the fall season. A League-record six football players were honored, in addition to six women’s soccer players, four men’s soccer players and one volleyball student-athlete.

Dec. 1, 2008
Liberty men’s basketball freshman Seth Curry is named Dick Vitale’s “Diaper Dandy of the Week” after averaging 23.0 points and .510 percent from the field in three wins, including a victory at Virginia.

Dec. 8, 2008
For the first time in Big South history, two men’s basketball teams are ranked in the 10-year old Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 national poll. Liberty’s first-ever appearance in the ranking came in the No. 13 position, while VMI was ranked No. 21.

Dec. 10, 2008
The Big South Conference has a record 12 men’s soccer players named All-Region by the NSCAA. Winthrop led the way with five selections, followed by Liberty (3), Coastal Carolina (2), High Point (1) and UNC Asheville (1).

Dec. 12, 2008
Big South men’s soccer players Daniel Revivo (Winthrop) and Joshua Boateng (Liberty) are named NSCAA All-Americans, marking the first time that the Big South has two men’s soccer All-Americans since 2003.

Dec. 17, 2008
Liberty junior setter Kallie Corbin is named an Honorable Mention All-American by the AVCA, the Flames’ first-ever Division I volleyball All-American and the third in Big South history.
Dec. 19, 2008
As mentioned in our last SHOUT, All-American honors are earned by four Big South football players, led by AP First Teamer Rashad Jennings of Liberty. The others receiving recognition: Philip Ashley (CSU), Jeffrey Williams (GWU), and Demario Deese (GWU).
Well that's all for now...I'm hitting the road tomorrow for Christmas with family... meanwhile, Hanukkah starts tonight and runs throughout the week -- so SHOUT wishes everybody the very best at the close of the year and we look forward to a fantastic year in 2009!

Friday, December 19, 2008

That Special Season

Yes, it's that time of year...FCS is putting the final touch on the season tonight, the FBS boys are getting their Bowl Games on starting this weekend, the NFL is spinning from its regular season into the playoffs...oh, and next week is Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, all hitting in a row between the Winter Solstice and the new moon preceding the New Year, so there's really something for everybody, right? There's even Boxing Day for Canada and the UK...

Whew! Are you ready for all that? Finished shopping yet?

Well, SHOUT is ready to break out the new calendar soon. The plan here is to have a wrap-up post coming up on Monday, reflecting proudly on Big South accomplishments of the year...and it's unknown what (if anything) might get posted between Christmas and New Year's--I'll be on a break from the office, but I may have some thoughts to contribute...who knows?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to some changes with SHOUT in 2009--like more guest bloggers and special features. The upcoming year should have plenty of fun to go around...but first, we still have 2008 business to deal with, like the latest video promo for The EDGE (covering from now through the first week of January):

video


Closing out now with some freshly-released information and a big-time SHOUT-out for Rashad Jennings of Liberty, AP First-Team FCS All-American! Way to go, what a tremendous accomplishment (and a great bonus for the holidays)! Read all about Jennings, along with other All-America honors for CSU's Philip Ashley plus GWU's Jeffrey Williams and Demario Deese in today's football news from your official source at BigSouthSports.com.

Make it a great weekend, everybody...more to come on Monday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sasser Cup Mania

Okay, that's obviously an exaggeration...you really don't run into any "Sasser Cup Mania" out there, but it is a big deal for the member schools of the Big South...after all, it establishes which of the ten institutions produced the best overall athletic program performance in a given year.

The update through the end of the fall competition came out a few days ago, with some interesting results. For example, you might think that since Liberty has claimed more titles than anyone else (Men's Cross Country, Volleyball, Football), that they might be a natural number one. Ah, but no--that's where the point system comes in for all the programs involved: it's not just taking a tourney title, it's the regular season, it's consistently high performance, it's all of that rolled together!

Through the fall, the overall leader is actually Coastal Carolina, with High Point second, and Liberty third...plus Winthrop and VMI to round out the top five. On the women's side, the order is Coastal-HPU-VMI-Liberty-Radford. For the men, the top programs are Winthrop-Liberty-HPU-Coastal-UNCA.

The Sasser Cup, named for former Big South Commissioner Buddy Sasser, is designed to reward the most consistently strong program for the course of a full athletic calendar. The last ELEVEN have all gone to either Liberty (6) or Coastal Carolina (5). CCU has an additional four Cups from earlier seasons, giving the Chanticleers a Conference-best total of nine! LU's half dozen (including last year's win)gets them second place on that list, followed with three each by former members UNC Greensboro and Campbell, and finally two wins by Winthrop...for a total of 23 such awards given by the Big South.

With consistency as the buzzword, you can sort of tell by looking through the numbers that it was a last-place finish in women's soccer that brought the Flames down a couple of pegs for now (only one point on the weighted scale, with no tournament appearance points to add). The numbers at this point give you a barometer of where programs are, but that's only one-third of the total sports recognized in the standings, so there's a loooooong way to go before anyone gets to lift the trophy and claim honors as the best!

In other news, you can click the following link if you want to see my latest report on Big South men's basketball for Rush the Court ("college basketblog").
Hope your holiday plans are going well...more SHOUT coming soon!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shooting Stars

They must love the Big South at the "Worldwide Leader" these days...

--there's a great column spotlighting the VMI Offense on ESPN's website from Wednesday
--AND ESPN2's "First Take" (the show "Cold Pizza" turned into) did a live segment with Liberty freshman Seth Curry that same day.

What do they have in common? Shooting the rock, baby.

VMI's story has two great quotes of note...one you've likely heard before if you've followed the hard-running, high-scoring program Duggar Baucom has assembled in Lexington: "Shoot the ball before you turn it over" (the essence of the Keydets' offensive philosophy, as told to columnist Kyle Whelliston by senior Travis Holmes).

The other quote from the article is one that could be easily overlooked, but is one the other programs in the Big South should pay attention to--this one from the other Holmes twin, Chavis: "There's still a lot of pressure on us to perform every night. The Kentucky game showed how good we can be. But if we don't win our conference, it's going to be a major disappointment" (emphasis mine).

That's a strong statement from a program that has never won the Conference title before, but you have to acknowledge that VMI is backing it up on the court relentlessly, jumping out to a 2-0 start in the Big South and 7-2 overall...not too shabby.

As for Curry, we've already covered his success in SHOUT, but suffice to say for now that he's claimed Freshman of the Week and Player of the Week honors once each in the season's first four weeks.

For the Conference in general, it's Bizarro-ball in the standings on the men's side--all the teams have played one or two Big South games, and you can add Winthrop, High Point, and Coastal Carolina together without finding a Conference win (0-5...and 6-18 overall for that group). Meanwhile, there's VMI and PC, each 2-0 in the Big South already--what do you know?!?

On the women's side, no Conference games yet (as I write this on the afternoon of Friday 12/12), but I'm pretty sure not too many folks thought you'd only get 4-19 by combining Liberty (1-6), Radford (1-6) and High Point (2-7) off the top of the season. Credit Coastal Carolina (6-2) and Gardner-Webb (5-2) for getting off to sharp starts this year.

So with so many storylines popping around the League, it's a perfect time to check out The EDGE...here's the video with the line-up for the week ahead...

video

That looks like a commercial for how badly I need to get a haircut, quite frankly...

SHOUT-outs on the soccer side of life for a quartet of invitees to the MLS Combine in Fort Lauderdale coming up in January: Daniel Revivo (Winthrop), Otto Loewy (Winthrop), Joshua Boateng (Liberty), and Kyle Russell (Coastal Carolina)--good luck, guys!!!

Have a great weekend, one and all...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Conference Play on the March...in December

You probably know the Big South got its earliest start ever for Conference play in men's basketball...but even setting that ESPN game of a few weeks ago aside, things are still rolling a little early for everyone this year.

Saturday the 6th offers up a quartet of Conference games (and all for your viewing pleasure on The EDGE): GWU at LU, VMI at UNCA, WU at RU, and PC at HPU.

For a rundown of those and the other games available this week, you can check out the video...

video

By the way, how many of you caught the Big South TV doubleheader of on Wednesday night?

Okay, not really a twin bill, but in the early evening you had SportSouth with UNC Asheville at Tennessee (although UT's Tyler Smith getting the first-ever triple-double for the Vols and Bruce Pearl getting career win #400 obviously didn't leave much attention for the Bulldogs following the 22-point loss) and in the nightcap you had MASN showing Winthrop at VMI (if you haven't seen the Keydets play, you owe it to yourself to catch the running and gunning show they do there--Winthrop gave it a strong effort early, but succumbed to the three-point attack 92-74). It's cool to see the Big South teams get that kind of exposure. There's another one on MASN Saturday, the 3pm tilt for Gardner-Webb at Liberty: newcomer GWU ready to start Conference play on the road against a hot LU squad with freshman Seth Curry already asserting his skills. You can read more about Curry in a write-up from today's Charlotte Observer.

Speaking of UNC Asheville and tough opponents, they are in a murderer's row of teams in the AP Top Ten, having played North Carolina and Tennessee--with Duke still ahead...and as a bonus, the Bulldogs get unranked but unforgiving Ohio State just before Christmas. Ho-ho-ho.


No time to chat more now, but let me close with a SHOUT-out to Coastal Carolina's Ashleigh Gunning (pictured)--the Big South Women's Soccer Player of the Year has been invited to the Women's Professional Soccer West Coast Combine (Dec. 11-14, San Diego). The WPS will be conducting two combines with a total of 144 invited players. Congratulations, Ashleigh--and good luck!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Of Patriot Games and Triplet Fame

Let's talk hoops for a moment, shall we?

Here's an interesting double feature from Monday night, just in time to get December going:
MBB -- Liberty 69, George Mason 66 (OT)
WBB-- High Point 66, George Mason 55

Yes, it's been a bit of a roller coaster this year for out-of-conference play--with surprising upsets working for and against the Big South in these first few weeks...but the twin-killing over the GMU Patriots marked a good night for the Conference against the CAA.

In other hoops news this week, the Presbyterian men did their part Monday night by dispatching Army and ending a long road losing streak for the Blue Hose...meanwhile, the year's second Conference game in men's basketball was played in High Point, where Charleston Southern, led by Jamarco Warren and Omar Carter, downed the Panthers by ten (62-52).

Of course, the first Big South MBB game this year was the ESPN game with UNC Asheville easily dispatching Liberty (84-56). LU may be sitting at the bottom of the Conference with that loss for now, but overall the Flames have been torching all comers. Overtime wins over William & Mary and George Mason (with many thanks to Seth Curry, at right, making key shots) and the upset victory over Virginia would give Liberty better conference records in the Colonial (2-0) and ACC (1-0) than in the Big South (0-1)! Add in the wins over Montreat and Coker and you've got a 5-1 ballclub heading into its second Conference game Saturday against Gardner-Webb, to be televised on MASN.

Want more basketball talk? You can check out my end-of-November report on Big South men's basketball for the Rush the Court blog, which is posted now.

Not to get stuck in a Liberty gear, but there is more news on the LU front, with the Frazee triplets getting a sensational write-up in USA Today (Frazees photo at right from USA Today). With Molly out for the year with her ACL tear--completing the ACL cycle among the three girls--we won't see the three of them play out their senior year together on the court, but what tremendous impact they have had on that program and on women's basketball in the Big South!

Meanwhile, here's a round-up on the NCAA front for the fall sports champions:
Radford's women and Winthrop's men were bounced in the opening rounds of their soccer tournaments (to Duke and William & Mary, respectively), while Liberty's Sam Chelanga came in second among individual runners in the men's cross country championship. Liberty's volleyball team plays a first round match at Nebraska at the end of this week.

Have you been checking the Big South 25th Anniversary stories and videos? This week's spotlight is on High Point's Danny Gathings for his great act of sportsmanship in 2004. While we're on the subject of the "Best of the Best" from the Big South's first quarter-century, I have to ask: HAVE YOU VOTED (for YOUR choice as the Best of the Best)? You can vote once a day for your selection, and fan balloting will be combined with committee votes to determine the final order of these legendary moments in the spring of 2009.

As always, thanks for reading SHOUT--more coming soon!