It was only a very short time ago when I was writing about working at two different schools that held the number one ranking in football. At around 2:30 p.m. this afternoon I could say that I have now worked at two different schools where during my time of employment the basketball team went to the NCAA Tournament.
It was definitely an awesome past three days. While sitting cross-legged on the baseline for 120 minutes of basketball I had the joy of watching the men’s basketball team here at Coastal Carolina run through the Big South competition and punch its ticket to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament. As it happens in these conference championships, the games just get better and more intense each round. This was definitely the case this weekend and I left the HTC Center today with some great memories.
In order, Coastal played UNC Asheville, Gardner-Webb, and Winthrop. The Chanticleers came in as the number three seed and actually never had to play a team seeded higher than them. They did, however, have to face two teams that they couldn’t beat during the regular season (Gardner-Webb and Winthrop). The team played well the whole tournament and with the direction of legendary coach Cliff Ellis the Chants had the firepower to win the championship. But enough with the seeds, statistics, and game plans.
What I really want to talk about is just how cool it was to be part of the 2015 Big South Championship. Our students and fans (along with Winthrop’s students and fans) came ready for the ESPN2 audience today. Although the HTC Center only holds a little over 3,000 people, fans made plenty of noise. When I wasn’t doing my job of taking photos and posting to social media, I was just enjoying the environment. Not working a conference tournament from such an involved level let me be a fan to a degree.
Those memories I briefly mentioned above? Let me give you a few.
Mascots – I sat on the opponent’s baseline for all three games. It just so happened that I was right next to the designated mascot box so I became acquainted with the bulldog mascots from both UNC Asheville and Gardner-Webb as well as the eagle from Winthrop. Considering my history with mascots, it was cool to observe them. The Gardner-Webb bulldog had a habit of complaining about the officials’ calls to me (no, he was not barking at me…he was speaking English).
Dual Fanbases – Because the Big South Conference has member schools that are all relatively close together, whenever a game was going on you had two distinct crowds. Of course the Coastal fans outnumbered its opponents but the other universities definitely brought respectable contingents. Having the gym erupt on one side when one team would do something followed by the gym erupting on the other side when the opposing team would do something made it an authentic tournament atmosphere.
Feeling of Kicking It All Off – The Big South Championship is one of the earliest conference tournaments. It helps to kick off Championship Week. Knowing that pretty much the whole country was paying especially close attention to our tourney made for a cool feeling. Now for a whole week ESPN will have to list Coastal Carolina as a school with its ticket punched. Majority of smaller universities don’t get this recognition for a full seven days.
I want to say congrats to the Coastal Carolina University athletic department. Putting on one conference tournament is tough, putting on two conference tournaments is pure mania. Although it is a conference event, make no mistake about it, the host school does majority of the work. Chanticleer Athletics put on two first class competitions that other schools in the Big South Conference should surely appreciate.
The exposure from now until whenever Coastal wins the national championship or is eliminated is priceless. There is no event in intercollegiate athletics like the NCAA Tournament and there is no better marketing tool for a university than being one of the 68 teams included. From a social media standpoint, this is pure gold for me. The response today from the social content I posted was through the roof and it should only just continue to build. It is a wonderful time to be a Chanticleer and I am so happy to be part of this university. Don’t Blink.