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NCAA ruling on Charleston bowl game expected by Friday

As new college football bowl games popped up Tuesday from the Bahamas to Boca Raton, organizers of a proposed game in Charleston are expecting a ruling from the NCAA on their game by week’s end.

BOWL GAME FOR CHARLESTON?

Details for proposed bowl game in Charleston:

Name: Legends Bowl

Site: Johnson Hagood Stadium

Start Date: December 2014

Teams: From Sun Belt, MAC

TV: NBC Sports Network

At a meeting of the newly formed S.C. Bowl Game Association on Tuesday night, state Rep. Samuel Rivers (R-Berkeley), a supporter of theproposed Legends Bowl, said he had spoken this week with Dennis Poppe, the NCAA vice president of championships/alliances.

“He said they will hold a meeting on this issue by the end of the week,” Rivers told attendees.

Legends Bowl organizers hope to bring the game to The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium by December 2014. They are negotiating with the Sun Belt and Mid-American conferences to bring teams from those leagues to Charleston, and are in talks with NBC Sports Network about televising the game. They project an economic impact of about $7 million for the Lowcountry in the game’s first year.

But a major stumbling block to the game is the NCAA’s moratorium on holding events at “pre-determined” sites in South Carolina due to the controversy over the Confederate battle flag flying in front of the State House in Columbia.

The NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, instituted the moratorium in 2001, and expanded it to include college football bowl games in 2004. South Carolina and Mississippi are the only states subject to the moratorium.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Rev. Nelson Rivers III, a vice president of the NAACP, made it clear that his group would not make an exception to its economic boycott of the state in order to support the bowl game.

“When the General Assembly takes the flag down,” he said, “you will have our support for as many bowl games as you want.”

After the meeting, Nelson Rivers said the state NAACP has had no indication that the NCAA is wavering on the moratorium.

“We’ve asked the NCAA to enforce the moratorium, and they have said they will,” he said. “And we have no reason to doubt that.”

Supporters of the game, including state legislators and business leaders, have contacted the NCAA over the last week to ask for approval of the game.

Legends Bowl organizers see a couple of chinks in the NCAA’s moratorium — the fact that the Division II Pioneer Bowl was allowed to take place in Columbia in 2007 and 2009, and the fact that the NCAA bowl licensing committee will no longer exist after 2013.

“If they aren’t licensing bowls after 2013, why is their nose in this one?” asked Jerry Ippoliti, former MAC commissioner and one of the bowl’s organizers.”

Meanwhile, other cities are securing games as the market for bowls for “mid-major” FBS leagues continues to grow. The Camellia Bowl, matching Sun Belt and MAC teams in Montgomery, Ala., was announced earlier this week. Tuesday, ESPN reported that Conference USA will have tie-ins with new bowl games in the Bahamas and in Boca Raton, Fla.

The Sun Belt, which now has tie-ins with three bowl games, is seeking a fourth and possibly a fifth game, including sites in Little Rock, Orlando and Charleston. But the obstacles in South Carolina are unique, Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson knows.

“At this juncture, it’s not even a possibility unless they can navigate through that (flag) issue,” he told al.com. “I know they’re trying. Until they’re successful, I don’t think it’s even worth discussing.”

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