The College of Charleston's gigantic geographic jump generally has been panned. From here to fraternity — the cozy Palmetto State bond Cougar fans enjoyed with in-state Southern Conference members The Citadel, Furman and Wofford.
But if you're a College of Charleston athlete or fan, all those complaints about joining the Colonial Athletic Association don't add up to a hill of beans in this crazy college sports world. You're getting on that plane (to Hofstra and Drexel).
We'll always have Spartanburg.
A high five of positives from the College of Charleston's first official day in the CAA:
1. May Madness
Baseball was considered the biggest single-sport demotion for the Cougars in the transfer from the SoCon. But landing the CAA tournament for 2015 and 2016 is a nice signing bonus. The friendly confines of Patriots Point make for a nice NCAA tournament launch pad.
“For them to give us the conference tournament in 2015 and 2016 is very generous,” Cougars coach Monte Lee said Monday. “It's pretty neat to go into a league not knowing what to expect and then one of the first things you find out, you get to play your conference tournament at home almost right away. We're very grateful.”
Just think of the excitement in 2015 when The Citadel is hosting the SoCon tournament on the other side of the Cooper River.
“Great for the Lowcountry and great for baseball,” Lee said. “It's great for fans and great for scouts. Can you imagine how many professional scouts will be here that week?”
2. Non-conference basketball
The College of Charleston already does a good job of bringing high-end competition to TD Arena; Louisville stopped by last season on its way to winning the national championship.
But now it seems the school will have to add more consistency to its non-conference scheduling to sweeten season ticket packages for fans ambivalent about the new CAA foes. Ruggedness doubles as a good idea for a program striving for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
3. Southern exposure
There is still hope for a Southern division in the CAA, a key hurdle. Fewer trips north will save the College of Charleston travel budget and lend to better rivalries.
“It's my understanding moving forward that that's what is going to happen,” Lee said. “I don't know if we need more members to make that happen, but I know that was part of us coming into the CAA, that at some point they would have Northern and Southern divisions. If we add schools, I assume we may see more Southern expansion.”
At last check — and the situation is fluid — there are nine CAA schools: Charleston, UNC Wilmington, William & Mary, James Madison, Towson, Drexel, Hofstra, Delaware and Northeastern. Elon will leave the SoCon and join the CAA for the 2014-15 school year.
4. SoCon isn't the SoCon
Widespread CAA panic started among Cougar fans last summer. But that was when the SoCon still had Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Davidson and Elon. A SoCon-CAA merger makes way too much sense to happen.
5. Chamber of commerce
What a bonanza for the Charleston tourism industry, this move to the CAA! Would you believe a medium-sized market with three NCAA Division I schools in three different conferences?
That means Big South people visiting Charleston Southern combine with SoCon fans at The Citadel and CAA newcomers at the College of Charleston to spread the good word across the South and from Asheville to Boston about Lowcountry hospitality.
Fewer hotel vacancies, more praline sales, more exposure for Clyde the Cougar.
Which wouldn't have been the case if the College of Charleston stayed in the SoCon and the league replaced Appalachian State with Charleston Southern.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.
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