Coastal Carolina Moving to the Sun Belt Conference

Today was a very historic day at Coastal Carolina. After much talk, rumor, and anticipation, the big announcement was finally made to confirm that the college I work for would join a new conference. However, this wasn’t a lateral move or a charade to jump off of a sinking ship. Rather, It was a move that offered great testament to the stature, progress, and potential of Coastal Carolina University.

It was announced at this afternoon’s press conference that our institution would join the Sun Belt Conference (effective July of 2016). As I mentioned, this just isn’t our university jumping from one conference to the other…it is so much more. By making this move, Coastal Carolina is now an FBS school. Or, in another words, CCU is now at the big boy table.

Today the announcement was made that Coastal Carolina University would join the Big South Conference (photo courtesy of Bill Edmonds, Coastal Carolina University).

Today the announcement was made that Coastal Carolina University would join the Sun Belt Conference (photo courtesy of Bill Edmonds, Coastal Carolina University).

It is no secret, Coastal is a university that is on the rise from just about every aspect. With the insane growth, exposure, and recognition consistently generated by our college it made sense to take an offer that will multiply all of these great things even more. The Sun Belt naturally wanted the Chanticleers and our administrators made the strategic move to accept the invite.

Commissioner Karl Benson said today that the decision to add our university was a “student-athlete decision.” This is exactly how it should be. Of course Coastal has the facilities, the structure, and the means to be a perfect fit but in the end it all comes down to the student-athletes. To know that our students who come here to compete for the Chanticleers will have a solid conference to compete in is comforting.

I took this photo today of President David DeCenzo, Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson, and Athletic Director Matt Hogue during the press conference.

I snapped this photo with my phone today of President David DeCenzo, Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson, and Athletic Director Matt Hogue during the press conference.

From a complete selfish standpoint, I am so jacked up about this move. To say that I now work for an FBS school (or at least a transitioning FBS school) as opposed to an FCS school makes me feel good. Whether or not you want to admit it, there is no better place to be than at the highest level of competition.

I am so pumped that the college I work for is going FBS and joining the Sun Belt Conference.

I am so pumped that the college I work for is going FBS and joining the Sun Belt Conference.

When I was working in the athletic department at Montana an invite was offered to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). The move would have taken the Griz to the FBS level as well. The president opted not to accept. I remembered feeling so disappointed that the program would remain at the FCS level in a less than glamorous conference. Now the WAC ended up dissolving its sponsorship of football so perhaps the right decision was made but who knows what would have happened if Montana joined and added stability. Bottom line, I am glad I don’t have the bad taste in my mouth of not moving up again.

Coastal Carolina can undoubtedly prosper at this next level. In fact, most of our athletic programs are already succeeding at this level through membership in the Big South Conference (besides football, our other sports play in the top tier NCAA championships). But the move to the Sun Belt will be a complete game changer. The switch in conferences will bring a sizeable boom that will bolster our athletic program and campus like nothing we have seen before.

I give much credit to President DeCenzo and Athletic Director Matt Hogue for making this all happen. If you can believe it, Coastal Carolina University has now become an even more desirable place to go to school and to work at. Go Chants! Don’t Blink.

Reflections on My First Year at Coastal Carolina University

It is funny. Often times you can look back on a period of time and not quite know if it flew by or seemed to last. If you are like me, sometimes you end up deciding it was a little of both. Today I celebrate my one year anniversary at Coastal Carolina University. For the most part, the last 365 days passed quickly. But then I realize that next week I will cover my fourth commencement and it makes me feel like I have been around campus for a little longer.

This is my one year anniversary photo!

This is my one year anniversary photo!

On May 1, 2014, I reported for my first day at Coastal Carolina. I spent that Thursday in new employee orientation learning about policies and procedures. It was an uneventful and low key day. That would be the last one of those. From the end of that initial day on out I had the opportunity to go full speed ahead and that is exactly what I did. I arrived on campus just before the start of graduation week and went right into covering the craziness of it. I covered a lot of events and met a lot of people. Those first ten or so days really helped set the tone for my first year.

My rookie debut at CCU was a good one. Yes, it was successful. Our social channels grew exponentially, #CCUSocialMedia became a brand, we won an award, and we received far more media coverage than I could ever imagine. But that is all I want to say about job performance. My one year reflection blog post is much more than that.

What I want to really hit on is what a good fit this position has been. I came from a job where I wore a ton of different hats and had little free time. For the past year I have showed up for work at a place where my focus is much more defined and my time out of the office much more adequate.

From the start I said I took this job because I could concentrate on social media. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t grown in other areas. Although I might not have 15 different responsibilities to tend to on a given day like at Montana, I have been able to embrace a diverse set of opportunities that improved me as a professional. Encouraged to create my own news show segment, assigned to write for our alumni magazine, requested to serve on working groups, and asked to help out on search committees, I was enabled to expand my reach. Aside from running our social media program, I relished these additional roles.

Another part of the fit has been the energy and culture at CCU. Our university is growing, both in terms of physical structures and student enrollment. We are an institution on the rise and I wanted to be a piece of that. Additionally, and I truly mean it when I say this, Coastal is just different. We are built on customer service and this attitude is reflected from the top down. There is a pride and a vibe here that is special, one that I relate to and embrace. Our “Feel the Teal” mission motivates me at work each day.

Most importantly, this arrangement has worked because of the people. It all starts out with our Vice President of University Communication who had the guts to hire me. Bill Plate brought me from Missoula to Myrtle Beach and I am so glad he did. He had the vision and rationality to know that a social media position was needed at CCU and he made it a reality. So many other people helped me (and continue to help me) after Bill and I wish I could recognize them all. Although this is not possible I do want to thank a few people really quickly. Thanks to our administrative assistant Kim Harper for helping me with pretty much every office task and organizational logistic you could think of. Thanks to April Betsch for reaching out to me at one of the first events I worked and taking me around to meet many of the key people I would end up working closely with. Thanks to Eileen Soisson for teaching me what it means to Feel the Teal and for going out of her way to support me. Thanks to Matt Hogue, Seth Horton, and Kevin Olivett from athletics for treating me so well and for genuinely caring about my ideas and input.

Year #1 is in the books and it was great. I am appreciative of the opportunity Coastal Carolina University has afforded me and I can’t wait to improve. Don’t Blink.

A Great NCAA Tournament Experience in Omaha

Yes, I know I sound like a broken record. As I have said before, attending the NCAA Tournament is special; occupying a spot on the travel party for a participating team is a career highlight. Just about 24 hours shy from returning to Myrtle Beach from Omaha, I am still on a high from the experience I had watching the Chanticleer men’s basketball team compete in the most well-known tournament on the planet.

It was a pleasure to travel with the team to Omaha. I took this photo after the public practice in CenturyLink Center on Thursday night.

It was a pleasure to travel with the team to Omaha. I took this photo after the public practice in CenturyLink Center on Thursday night.

But what is it that makes the NCAA Tournament experience so special? Well, let me tell you one thing that doesn’t make it special…the city. God Bless Omaha but I won’t be moving out there anytime soon. You see, there is something about the tourney that transcends geographical boarders and makes whatever town you are in irrelevant.

It is the respect.

Team charters, police escorts, hotel employees dressed in university apparel, school logo plastered everywhere, locals looking at you in awe, national media on location, and an organizational structure that is ten times better than what the phrase “on point” can ever express all convey a deep level of reverence. It is intoxicating.

This is the police escort that led our bus to the CenturyLink Center for Thursday night's public practice.

This is the police escort that led our bus to the CenturyLink Center for Thursday night’s public practice.

Personally, I had a wonderful trip. I had complete freedom and access to do my job but at the same time I also had fun. Throughout the duration of the trip, #CCUSocialMedia was able to give our audience a real time look inside the tournament experience through constant posts in addition to the release of four videos and three photo galleries. When I wasn’t sharing the sights and sounds with #TEALnation I was able to visit the site of the College World Series, eat an Omaha steak, check out a cemetery, and tour the downtown part of the city.

I got to see TD Ameritrade Park, eat an Omaha steak, and visit a cemetery.

I got to see TD Ameritrade Park, eat an Omaha steak, and visit a cemetery.

But let’s get real here, the trip was about the student-athletes and it was a complete pleasure observing them and following them. The team let me shoot everything from breakfast to the private shoot around at Creighton University to moments before the game when they were stretching in the bowels of the arena. From the time of the sendoff to touch down in Myrtle Beach yesterday, everyone on the squad was a complete gentleman. It was a joy to cover them.

I have a couple of personal highlights from the trip. First was attending the public practice/press conference at CenturyLink Center the day before the game. The minute the fleet of police motorcycles lead you into the private entrance of the arena you really realize what a big deal it is. The size of the media workroom, the hospitality area, the staging area, and of course the facility itself quickly remind you that you aren’t in the HTC Center anymore. Watching the team practice in high spirits while Marv Albert and other notables looked on was really cool.

This was me at the shoot around at the CenturyLink Center on Thursday night.

This was me at the shoot around at the CenturyLink Center on Thursday night.

Second, the game night experience itself was awesome as well. Once again, the prominence of the tournament hits you when you have schools like Oregon and Oklahoma State playing right before you. You feel like you have really made it when Barry Alvarez walks right by. You know your school is center stage when at halftime the TBS feed is displayed on the video board and Charles Barkley is talking about Coastal Carolina. Add that with a full arena with countless staff members/tournament officials in suits walking around and you can’t help but feel the pageantry.

Me on the court moments before Coastal and Wisconsin tipped off.

Me on the court moments before Coastal and Wisconsin tipped off.

Our men’s basketball team represented our university gallantly on the huge stage. The Chants played Wisconsin tough and registered the slimmest margin of defeat in the tournament between  #1 vs. #16 teams. The Badgers just had too much size. When the buzzer sounded, our student-athletes had nothing to hang their heads about.

Badou Diagne goes up against Wisconsin's big stud, Frank Kaminsky.

Badou Diagne goes up against Wisconsin’s big stud, Frank Kaminsky.

Our other students who came along on the trip didn’t either. The pep band, cheer squad, and dance team did a fantastic job at the game and conducted themselves with class the whole time in Omaha. It is really cool to observe them as well and see how much fun they have. They did a lot to earn their way on such a special journey so it is gratifying to see them enjoy it.

The CCU dance team, along with the pep band and cheer squad, did a great job representing Coastal.

The CCU dance team, along with the pep band and cheer squad, did a great job representing Coastal.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one final aspect that makes an NCAA Tournament trip so memorable…the relationships made. In addition to the ones I already knew, I got to meet and hang out with more staff members from the athletic department, many around my age. To talk with them and have fun with them was a great opportunity for me to connect with other young professionals who share the same interests as me.

Many thanks to Athletic Director Matt Hogue for allowing me to go on the trip. He understands the importance of having someone who specializes in social media covering such a major event. I brought back a lot of memories from Omaha and will always look back on this trip very fondly. Don’t Blink.

My Big South Championship Experience

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.

I had a great time working the Big South Championship.

I had a great time working the Big South Championship.

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.

Coach Cliff Ellis led his team to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

Coach Cliff Ellis led his team to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

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.

I sat right up on the baseline, in front of the visiting team's student section. In this photo, ESPN2 is shooting the Winthrop student section.

I sat right up on the baseline, in front of the visiting team’s student section. In this photo, ESPN2 is shooting the Winthrop student section.

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).

The Gardner-Webb bulldog spoke to me several times yesterday.

The Gardner-Webb bulldog spoke to me several times yesterday.

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.

Watching student sections go back and forth with each other is a lot of fun.

Watching student sections go back and forth with each other is a lot of fun.

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.

Coastal was one of the first schools  that had the pleasure of storming the court after a punched ticket to the Big Dance.

Coastal was one of the first schools that had the pleasure of storming the court after a punched ticket to the Big Dance.

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.

I want to say congrats to Coastal Carolina Athletic Director Matt Hogue and his staff for putting on two great conference tournaments.

I want to say congrats to Coastal Carolina Athletic Director Matt Hogue and his staff for putting on two great conference tournaments.

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.

Sweet Way to Start the Thursday Rundown

It is the last Thursday in February. However, no matter if it is the first or last, any Thursday means it is time for the rundown. Time to get started.

#CCU Director of Athletics – Today news came down that our university now has a permanent athletic director. The man officially in charge of our sports program is Matt Hogue. Not a stranger to this huge responsibility at all as he served as the interim athletic director for the past several months, I couldn’t be more thrilled for Matt now that it is official. He was one of the three members on the committee that decided to hire me. When I came for my on-campus visit almost one year ago he was so welcoming and professional. Since I have started working here at Coastal he has humbly reached out to me several times and has even asked for advice whether it be about social media or about how we would do certain things at Montana. AD Hogue has already done a great job in his interim role and will continue to move Chanticleer Athletics forward now that he is the guy.

This is a photo I took of Matt during summer commencement.

This is a photo I took of Matt during summer commencement.

Recognition for #CCUSocialMedia – Yesterday I received word that our summer #CCUSA campaign was recognized in the Educational Advertising Awards. Entered in the “Social Media: 4-year Institution, 5,000-10,000” category, it received the bronze award. Although I am much more interested in winning gold awards, earning any type of national recognition is a cool deal and a great starting point for our social media program. Thank you to Kevin Olivett and Jon Fernandez for their great help assisting with the conception of the #CCUSA campaign.

#CCUSA earned some recognition through the Educational Advertising Awards.

#CCUSA earned some recognition through the Educational Advertising Awards.

Very Interesting App – Last week my brother drew my attention to an app called Fling. Here is the concept: You take a photo or video, hit send, and then the app will transport the media you created to 50 random people worldwide. My brother likened Fling to a cross between Snap Chat and Chat Roulette. I personally like it because I can broadcast my blog to 50 new people at a time over the whole planet. Sadly, I have found out that not everyone is as enthusiastic about my website as I am. You see, people who receive your “Fling” can respond. I have had a couple people tell me in not so nice terms that they don’t really care about www.brentreser.com and that they rather see a hot girl instead.

This is the Fling logo.

This is the Fling logo.

Silly Weekend Planned – Saturday will be a lot of fun! I am not going to release the exact details now because I am going to write about it on Sunday night but I will say this: It has to do with Sidney and I traveling to the area of Raleigh, North Carolina. It is a typical “Brent Being Brent” trip. Stay tuned to www.brentreser.com for a recap at the end of the weekend.

Words of Wisdom– Exactly one year ago today, these words of wisdom appeared on my “Life’s Little Instructions” calendar. This definitely goes down as one of my favorite pieces of advice. Personal disappointment is tough, but nothing helps remedy the pain more than by lifting someone else up. I have tried to use this remedy as much as possible as I have faced my own setbacks. With these words appearing exactly 365 days ago, I knew I had to share.

Great Advice!

Great Advice!

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Have a superb weekend, everyone! As always, I am very appreciative of your readership. Don’t Blink.

Still Connected to Interollegiate Athletics

When people in Missoula found out that I accepted a position at Coastal Carolina they reacted in a few different ways. Some saw it as a total out of the blue move. Some wanted to know if it had anything to do with the Montana vs. Coastal Carolina football game in December. Some questioned me on whether I could handle a job outside athletics.

Let me briefly answer the first two thoughts. If it seemed like it came out of the blue then that is no coincidence. Why someone would want to let anyone else besides your current employer know about possible job prospects is beyond me. The “making moves” or “big interview tomorrow” statuses on social media disrespect both your current and potential employers and I think it jinxes your aspirations. And no, me taking the position at Coastal Carolina had 0% to do with the football game in December.

Now to the question that I felt carried the most weight: Could I fully embrace a job not directly affiliated with athletics? While I feel like the question was the most legitimate out of the three for others to ask it never really made me think twice. I love sports with all my heart but I wasn’t opposed to a change. After four and a half years of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. days, non-existent weekends, and a laundry list of responsibilities it started to wear on me a bit. Add that to the amazing opportunity presented to me by Coastal Carolina and I knew my next career move was set.

But you see, I have the best of both worlds. While I am no longer toiling working inside an athletic department I still get the opportunity to experience intercollegiate athletics. In my job now I cover all happenings and events on campus so I get to take the time and share the good news of Chanticleer Athletics. Luckily for me this part of the new gig is fun and easy because the CCU athletics department has welcomed me with open arms.

Chauncey welcomed me with open arms too.

Chauncey welcomed me with open arms too.

It is kind of interesting because even before I moved to Myrtle Beach I already kind of had my foot in the door with the athletics staff. When I went to the CCU campus in March for my in-person interview Matt Hogue, the Associate Vice President of Marketing/Licensing, was on the hiring committee. About a week after my interview he was named the interim Athletic Director. Also during my in-person interview I had a session where I interviewed with three people who play big roles in the CCU social media landscape around campus. One of those people happened to be Kevin Olivett, the marketing director for Chanticleer Athletics. Even though he was in the middle of running two conference basketball tournaments at the time he still managed to sit in for my interview.

Fast forward to the end of April and Kevin kept in touch with me. He followed my journey across the country and wasted no time reaching out to me and setting up a lunch date. Just my fourth day on the job he took me to downtown Conway where we ate at a place called the Crafty Rooster. Joining us was a play-by-play announcer for the department and a Myrtle Beach sports talk radio host, Aaron Marks. Later that day I sat in a meeting with Kevin, his assistant, and the department’s ticket guy to brainstorm social media ideas. How cool and nice of them to involve me in their social media efforts and value my opinion!

The hospitality didn’t stop there though. I received an all-access pass for the Big South Conference softball tournament. I had a nice time covering and watching the tourney from the brand new softball facility on campus. As the Chants made it to the championship game I got to meet more athletics staff including the videographers and the sponsorship director. All were so gracious and welcoming. It was refreshing to see how another athletic department goes about business and I came out of the weekend just that much more pumped to be a Chanticleer.

I had a great time attending the softball tournament and seeing how another athletic department does things.

I had a great time attending the softball tournament and seeing how another athletic department does things.

So please don’t worry about me if you think I am not getting my athletics fix in. I definitely am! Things are just much more balanced now. I am seeing a much wider perspective of university life while still getting to focus a little bit in the area where I got my start in. Don’t Blink.