The Citadel and College of Charleston began playing each other in basketball in 1901. And both teams began squaring off against Charleston Southern (then Baptist College) when that school opened in 1974.
With a couple of gaps here and there, the Lowcountry’s three Division I programs have provided a steady round-robin of generally well-attended and hard-fought intracity rivalry games since then.
But a couple of recent developments could mean fewer editions of “city championship” games, such as The Citadel’s 7:30 p.m. meeting with Charleston Southern today at the CSU Field House.
For one thing, College of Charleston is bolting the Southern Conference for the Colonial Athletic Association next year, which means the Cougars’ annual pair of SoCon games with The Citadel will be a thing of the past.
And with Charleston Southern slated to begin construction on a new 3,500-seat arena in 2016, the Buccaneers seem less inclined to play city rivalry games only at the North Charleston Coliseum or on the opponents’ home floor.
This season marks the first year since 1985-86 that Charleston Southern has hosted both College of Charleston and The Citadel at the “Buc Dome,” the smallest Division I gym in the country, at a capacity of 881.
The Cougars squeaked past the Bucs, 72-67, before a crowd of 1,001 last week.
In CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh’s first seven seasons, the Bucs played The Citadel and College of Charleston 14 times. Thirteen of those games were at the North Charleston Coliseum or on the Cougars’ and Bulldogs’ home floors. The only game over that span at the Buc Dome was a 68-61 CSU win over The Citadel in 2010.
Clearly, there will be some offseason negotiating among all three schools.
“After the season, we look forward to visiting with them both,” said Radebaugh, whose team has won three straight over The Citadel. “We really want to keep playing them both. It’s good for the city, good for basketball in Charleston. Our fans look forward to the games, and I think theirs do as well.
“That being said, every school has to do what’s best for their institution.”
Citadel coach Chuck Driesell echoed that sentiment, saying that he wants to keep playing College of Charleston after the Cougars move to the Colonial. It seems likely that the Cougars and Bulldogs would play once a season on a home-and-home basis.
New Cougars coach Doug Wojcik said he hopes to open next season against The Citadel.
“In a perfect world, that’s the game I’d like to open with next year,” he said. “I just don’t know if it will work out that way. But The Citadel game is definitely going to happen. Chuck and I have already talked, and we both agree it’s important to keep the series going.”
Said Driesell, “We’re going to keep playing College of Charleston. Obviously, it’s a good matchup for us and for the community, and I feel the same way about Charleston Southern. It’s a quality program and a good game for us.”
Driesell added that he has “no problem” playing at CSU’s Buc Dome.
“I’m just wondering whether to wear a suit and tie,” he said. “Last time we were there, I sweated through it and ruined my suit.”
College of Charleston, however, has refused in the past to play at CSU Field House. This year’s game was the final year in a two-year contract between the schools, and the Cougars’ Wojcik doesn’t sound optimistic about the future of the CSU-CofC series.
“I’m just not sure we’re going to be able to work it out,” he said. “We want to schedule games against (SoCon teams) Wofford and Furman, and there are only so many games we have available to us.”
Meanwhile, tonight’s game looms large for both the Bucs and Bulldogs. CSU, picked to win the Big South South Division this year, is 0-5 against Division I teams thus far, though the Bucs’ early schedule is ranked 22nd toughest in the nation by one RPI system.
“We’re a little bit more of a work in progress than I thought we’d be,” said Radebaugh, whose team has lost to Charlotte, Arizona, East Tennessee State, Alabama and C of C. “The schedule has exposed a lot of weaknesses, so we’ve had to work hard to keep our confidence at a high level.”
The Citadel (3-3 with one D-I win, over VMI) is facing the same issue after an 84-54 loss at UNC Greensboro on Saturday in the Bulldogs’ SoCon opener.
“We’re anxious to get back out there and fix some of the mistakes we made,” Driesell said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well at Greensboro, and we ran into a team that was pretty good. We’ve got to do a better job of getting out on those shooters and not hoping they miss, but making them miss.”
Andrew Miller contributed to this report.