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Big South Roundtable: Experts Discuss Coastal Carolina's Departure

What is next for the Big South after Coastal's departure for the Sun Belt Conference?

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

With Coastal Carolina officially leaving the Big South for the Sun Belt Conference much of the focus has been on the Chants. What is the best course forward for the conference though and what do other Big South fans think of Coastal's move and where the conference should go from here.

To hash it all out we opened to floor to a slew of Big South experts and fans for a roundtable discussion about the conference's future.

We posed two questions:

- Where should the conference look to replace Coastal and eventually Liberty? Should the conference continue to try to protect it's football auto-bid or focus on other sports?

- Is this a watershed moment for the conference where the non-football members should consider leaving for another conference, like the Atlantic Sun?

Charles (Campbell): These questions were swirling around in my mind last night, too!  I will have to digest these questions for a while as things can go in a lot of directions.

Here are my initial emotions....  As a 1987 Campbell alum who was a fan when the Big South was created, I'm very excited and happy to see Coastal go!  Sure, they are good in sports, but - and this will sound elitist - as academic institutions, being linked with Coastal did nothing for any of us.  I've always felt that our affiliation with them cheapened our brand.  I When I hear "Coastal", I think Bergman, NCAA violations, youtube videos of partying students, and Cliff singing beach music.  Never had much real respect for them.

If that other school leaves, we will have a nice collection of normal schools.  But heck, that might not be as interesting!

Kevin (High Point): Having just graduated from HPU in 2014 and been fully immersed in Big South Athletics, I love the fact that Coastal is leaving. I think it was ridiculous how much the conference catered to them in basketball and I strongly believe we will have better conference tournaments in locations that arent Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach is a tourist attraction in the warmer months no doubt, but during the first week in March it is a ghost town. Having a 3000 seat gym only a quarter filled is embarrassing and I think other locations could maybe produce larger crowds.

I personally think the conference should focus on basketball and the other olympic sports, as truth be told the conference has produced some very competitive teams in these sports over the last few years.

In reality no matter how good Coastal or any other member school is or was at football, not enough people care about second tier football conferences, but if the conference can produce just one winner in basketball it becomes much more respected.

MMM: We expect the Big South to protect their football auto-bid which likely means another run at Delaware State and possible Division II additions. Would you rather be in a conference with those options added or seek some sort of new conference or merger with the likes of the Atlantic Sun, UNC Greensboro, etc.?

Ben (Gardner-Webb): Delaware State would just be a terrible addition. They are not very good at basketball and their football stadium is just pathetic. I think a merger with the A-Sun is crucial.

Parks (Longwood): I think where a merger gets tricky and sticky is who goes? The non-football Big South schools could get together and leave Charleston Southern, Presbyterian, and Gardner-Webb hanging out to dry. The other interesting thing if all the publics got together with UNCG and then left Campbell and High Point out to dry as well.  Longwood, Radford, UNCG, Winthrop, and UNCA could seemingly dictate everything if they became a united front.

Brian: How bad is it going to look if Liberty boat races Delaware State this Saturday night in Lynchburg (in football), followed by the Big South running begging to their doorstep?

If you're that hell-bent on adding "average" schools, North Greenville and Wingate are probably on that level.  If Upstate had football, it would be a slam dunk.  However, if you're Upstate and have the choice between traveling 9 hours to play NJIT or 5 to play Liberty/Longwood, that choice should be pretty obvious.  

The longer this issue goes unresolved, the worse commissioner Kallander and those in the league office look.  About the only thing Coastal didn't do was put a billboard outside the league offices in Charlotte with a gigantic middle finger.

Jeremy (Winthrop): As long as WU is in a league that is not on brink of collapse, has autobids, & doesn't have crazy travel, doesn't matter to me.

Kevin: I think a merger needs to happen with A Sun.  I also think that there is an outside shot this move by Coastal gets HPU to strongly consider a football move, which I personally think would be a huge mistake.  Nido (HPU President) won't settle for mediocrity though and adding Delaware State and 2 potential D2s screams mediocrity.

MMM: Should commissioner Kallander's job be in question?He's been with the conference for over twenty years now.

Has he grown the conference's profile with non-organic growth? It seems as if the ASun has a better TV package for hoops already and is more progressive as a whole.

Parks: I think that depends on transparency. There is no transparency from the league meetings on the conference's "master plan" and how the BSC will be enhanced.  Maybe their is a plan, I really don't know and it's not like the traditional media is digging anything up. I think we are definitely at a crossroads though where accountability is key.. The conference needs to figure out who they want to be, put a plan together, identify targets, and execute. That certainly hasn't been prevalent in the past.

Brian: I'm not that privy to anything going on at that level, but I will say that Jeff Jackson has been really impressive in the limited dealings I've had with him.  He would be the perfect candidate to take over that spot if Kyle were to leave for greener pastures.

Kallander's Statement Today:

"While the Big South Conference is disappointed in Coastal Carolina's departure, we recognize that membership movement is a normal part of the current environment in Division I athletics. The Big South has seen relatively little membership change recently, and is confident in its ongoing stability. In fact, this move illustrates the strength of the Big South and the competitive excellence of its members. Regardless, the Big South will continue to achieve at a high level by providing outstanding athletic and academic opportunities to all its student-athletes, and Developing Leaders Through Athletics."

Yep that was it....

MMM: Has or will Jackson help to raise the profile of basketball in the Big South?

Brian: Goodness, I hope so. He's been out front on a lot of marketing initiatives, and I know there are some other people in the league offices who bust their asses every day trying to get the league (even more) on the map. Jackson gets all the stuff that has to go on to promote basketball, and understands the region. He's a very well-spoken and engaging guy, too.

We're also seeing even more turnover in SIDs, so I'm curious to see what -- if any -- effect that has on anything.

MMM: To close this out, it sounds like the conference is leaning towards moving this year's tournament out of Myrtle Beach. There are also rumors that the Big South has already contacted Roanoke as a possible venue. Where would you like to see the tournament this year and in the long term future?

Brian: Charlotte honestly makes the most sense, for a number of reasons. Roanoke's an interesting idea, but not sure how that holds up long-term.

Ben: This year Charleston and Charlotte in the long term.

Parks: My biggest concern is the tournament being taken to a large, sterile, empty arena. That happened with the CAA and Richmond before moving to Baltimore (and is still kind of that way). That's probably the biggest reason I'm against Roanoke or Charlotte. TD Arena in Charleston really interests me because it's a bit smaller, new, intimate and would be an early spring destination for fans in the conference.

I expect Winston-Salem to jump back in the fray as well since they made a bid a few years back.