Imagine watching a car wreck in slow motion...
That's what it feels like being a Big South fan during these heavy periods of conference realignment.
The Big South made the very deliberate decision over a decade ago to focus on football, football, and football. Today the dominoes have fallen enough where they are set to backfire in the face of the conference.
All reports point Coastal Carolina joining the Sun Belt Conference tomorrow at a 1 PM press conference. The Chants will join in every sport but football in 2016-17 and then football will follow in 2017. Rumors are also swirling about Coastal losing the Big South basketball tournament and possibly being banned from postseason play.
I don't know what's true but many have been yelling for years that the football strategy is bogus and that shines brighter tonight than ever before. The Big South rolled the dice on associate members like Stony Brook, Kennesaw State, and Monmouth to solidify their football product while sticking their fingers in their ears regarding Liberty and Coastal heading for greener pastures. The day has come...Coastal is gone and Liberty wants to leave more than anything else in the world.
The conference seemingly tried to appease Coastal by hosting the annual conference basketball tournament, but that's gone along with, likely, the tournaments title sponsor. It's a failed strategy, one that many of us saw coming. Even worse all of us endured the Chants raising hardware on their home floor for two years in a row with an unfair advantage fostered from appeasement and fear. I can only imagine how Pat Kelsey must feel right now.
People love this conference, basketball fans love this conference, and tonight we're at a crossroads. For all intents and purposes the Big South is now at 9 members and 3 full-member football schools. Do you want to become a football conference and focus on an auto-bid or a basketball/everything else conference and focus on being a great geographic conference?
When Kennesaw State joined as a football affiliate this year many asked why they weren't forced to join as a full member? Many saw the writing on the wall that the Big South would soon be a 9 member conference and the Owls would make 10, the perfect number for basketball.
The conference whiffed on USC Upstate and others while focusing on the gridiron and could be a lot stronger at this point.
Instead we're back in limbo and caught in the fear that the conference will turn to Division II and the MEAC to plunder 2 to 4 new members to keep football's version of manifest destiny alive. Delaware State and Hampton have both been rumored in the past. Both are fine institutions but just don't stack up to a great 10 team conference focused on everything else but football.
Some schools, like Radford, were rumored to be looking at the Atlantic Sun several years back. Maybe that interest heats up again? The Big South should have been the aggressor when the ASun was on the ropes this summer but now maybe it's the ASun that should turn the tables? Perhaps the non-football Big South schools would be interested in a home that focuses on their needs and wants?