SAPAKOFF COLUMN: The five key things College of Charleston fans must consider in the CAA debate

In this 2009 file photo, College of Charleston's Jermaine Johnson takes a hook shot in front of Furman's Brandon Sebirumbi at the Carolina First Arena.

Patriots, Tories and Confederates have debated weighty matters at or around the College Charleston, a proud institution older than the United States.

Again, this is no time for shyness on George Street.

Speak now in favor of maintaining the school’s convenient athletic department status in the Southern Conference, but know that other SoCon members might bolt before the Cougars make another free throw.

Support the apparent school lean to the Colonial Athletic Association and a better brand of basketball, but remember that the CAA also is vulnerable to realignment raids.

“We are going to try and gain as many relevant opinions as we can,” College of Charleston athletic director Joe Hull said. “We are not going to have a referendum.”

Memorize the CAA: Delaware, Drexel, George Mason, Hofstra, James Madison, Northeastern, Towson, UNC Wilmington and William & Mary.

Above all, consider five key things before phoning board members or arguing with bored members of the SoCon:

Above all, this is all about football. Realignment shifts in BCS conferences have trickled down, impacting schools that do not recruit linebackers.

The College of Charleston is a beggar at a football banquet. Limited leverage. An arena-size fan base vs. stadium-size competition.

“Schools that have football clearly have more options to join conferences,” said Andy Abrams, dean of the Charleston School of Law and a former College of Charleston administrator who was an architect in its ascent from NAIA status to NCAA Division I.

But Abrams “would not advise” the College of Charleston to follow newcomers UNC Charlotte and South Alabama into the football biz.

“I don’t think we would do that any time in the near future,” Hull said. “Ever? Ever is a long time.”

Perhaps a school from South Carolina, one of the original colonies, belongs in the Colonial. This isn’t the first time the College of Charleston has been linked to the CAA; the school officially tried to get the league interested twice before.

Then and now, academics, more than a better basketball profile, pushed CAA talk. Part of the College of Charleston’s CAA lure is the chance to replace its current smart students with smarter students via school exposure in the New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. metro areas.

“The College of Charleston wanted to affiliate itself athletically with institutions it was like, or aspired to be like, academically,” Abrams said. “(The CAA) was the first choice of (former school president) Dr. (Harry) Lightsey way back in the late 1980s.”

So cozy, the SoCon. Three schools in South Carolina, five in North Carolina, plus Georgia Southern, Chattanooga and Samford.

Not so good, however, if Appalachian State and Georgia Southern make football moves and Davidson beats the College of Charleston to the basketball punch.

A CAA South Division sounds nice: College of Charleston, UNC Wilmington, James Madison, William & Mary, maybe George Mason. But the nine-team conference probably needs three additions to split into divisions.

SoCon sentimentalists can embrace non-conference scheduling. The Citadel, Furman and Wofford can stay on the schedule, just not as often in a CAA world.

Student athletic fees pay for a lot of what happens at the College of Charleston. Win or lose to the Delaware Blue Hens or Western Carolina Catamounts.

The dues-paying, pizza-loving kids deserve a big voice in this.

Particularly athletes apparently in for longer road trips and less study time with a CAA leap.

Since the great John Kressse defied odds and put the College of Charleston on the national basketball map with four NCAA tournament appearances, Cougars fans have been motivated by the possibility of March Madness. But the Cougars haven’t made the NCAA tournament in basketball out of the SoCon since 1999 and chances are less likely in the CAA, at-large options or not.

The SoCon had a basketball RPI of No. 23 and the CAA (including departed VCU) No. 14 in 2012.

A bigger and reverse RPI concern is CAA baseball mediocrity: No. 18 in conference RPI in 2012, way below the SoCon’s No. 7. The difference wasn’t as much in 2011 (No. 18 for the CAA, No. 15 for the SoCon) but it’s hard to find baseball people who think a move to the CAA is a good idea.

There is no timetable for the SoCon/CAA decision, but league logos change quickly these days. Like maybe before you pay good money for your next admission to a College of Charleston sporting event.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff