Waiting on college football season…hurry up already!

This is a post featuring meaningless gridiron musings, and it’s not even June yet.

I saw this chart on Phil Steele’s site a couple of days ago. It’s an interesting look at the percentage of lettermen returning for each FBS team, although perhaps not really indicative of how a team may do this season. For example, I suspect that Southern California, next-to-last in the category, is still going to be really good.

North Carolina State, which will play The Citadel in late September, is also near the bottom of the list, with a lettermen return rate of 59.6%. That got me thinking, what’s The Citadel’s return rate? It turns out to be not much higher (62.9%).

I compiled a similar list of The Citadel’s opponents this year in a chart. Well, not all the opponents, for the simple reason that I couldn’t find readily available numbers. I found practically no information about Charleston Southern’s returnees, to name just one school, although I would imagine that since the Buccaneers were 0-11 last season there are going to be some changes.

I have return/loss statistics for eight of the eleven schools playing the Bulldogs. As I get more information for the others, I’ll add those numbers to the chart.

Anyway, this is what I came up with for eight opponents, plus The Citadel (excuse the less-than-stellar presentation):

Team     2011 L’men     Lost         Returning   % Returning

Appy           55                22                 33       60.0%

GSU             80                24                 56       70.0%

NCSU          52                 21                 31       59.6%

Wofford      64                 17                 44       68.8%

WCU           63                 21                42       66.7%

UTC            65                 20                 45       69.2%

Furman        62                 17                 45       72.6%

VMI          54                   19                    35       64.8%

The Citadel  62                 23                 39       62.9%

Among returning offensive and defensive starters, Chattanooga returns 16 of 22 (8 offensive/8 defensive); Georgia Southern, 15 of 22 (8/7); Appalachian State, 14 of 22 (5/9); North Carolina State, 14 of 22 (7/7); Western Carolina, 14 of 22 (8/6); VMI, 11 of 22 (5/6); and Furman, 14 of 22 (6/8).

Some links, if you’re interested or bored or both:

Appalachian State 2012 Preseason Prospectus

Georgia Southern 2012 Quick Facts

A report from Charleston Southern’s spring game

Wofford 2012 Quick Facts

Chattanooga 2012 Spring Notes

Furman 2012 Quick Facts

VMI 2012 Quick FactsNewspaper report on VMI spring footballschool report on final spring scrimmage

Western Carolina 2012 Quick Facts and A report from Western Carolina’s spring game

Samford 2012 Prospectus

A report from Elon’s spring game

North Carolina State 2012 Spring Prospectus

Phil Steele’s team page for The Citadel

Jeff Hartsell’s writeup of The Citadel’s spring game (over two months ago, sure, but in case you missed it)

Less than 100 days to go…

The Citadel’s varsity sports teams, 2011-12: a brief review

Around this time last year I posted a review of the 2010-11 school year for varsity sports entitled “Larry Leckonby’s Lament“. I wouldn’t call this school year in the department of athletics a lament; rather, it was more a year of transition. At least I hope it was…

First, the setup, just so everyone is on the same page. As I wrote last year:

The Citadel has fifteen varsity sports, by my reckoning.  I count rifle (listed as both a men’s and women’s sport on the school’s website) as just one sport, because it is co-ed.  I consider indoor track and outdoor track to be separate entities, because the Southern Conference awards championships in both of them (and for both men and women).  The school competes in the SoCon in fourteen of the fifteen sports (the exception is rifle).

Last year the rifle team garnered The Citadel its sole conference championship of the 2010-11 school year, the SEARC title. This year, the Bulldogs finished second. Before I move on to the rest of the sports, which play under the SoCon banner, I want to make a couple of quick points/observations about the rifle team:

— Anyone interested can donate to the rifle team through this link; it’s some kind of $3-for-$1 deal. I think this particular fundraising effort may have flown under the radar. The team did get a $20,000 donation from the National Wild Turkey Foundation. Wild turkeys themselves largely approved of this donation, under the theory that the more shooting that takes place at the range, the less that goes on in the field.

— When I wrote my infamous manifesto on varsity athletics at The Citadel a few months back, I noted that increasing the budget of the rifle program, if at all possible, would be a good idea, particularly since The Citadel is a military college with a great shooting facility. This is an NCAA sport, and one in which the school can compete on a national level.

As for the remaining fourteen sports, the average finish for the varsity teams in league play was 8.6, with an average of 10.5 competing schools for each sport. In other words, the average finish was third-from-last. Reviewing the year on a sport-by-sport basis:

— Women’s soccer: After a breakthrough season in 2010, one in which The Citadel finished third in the SoCon, the soccer team regressed to a 5-11-3 overall record, finishing ninth in the league and missing the conference tournament. It was a disappointing season, but it is to Bob Winch’s credit that a year in which the women’s soccer team won three league games and tied two others could be considered a disappointment.

— Wrestling: The Citadel had three individual conference champions, and tied for second in the league tournament after a third-place finish in the regular season. This was an improvement on the prior campaign, when the Bulldogs finished fourth of six teams. All in all, a solid year for the mat men.

— The Citadel finished fourth in the SoCon (out of nine teams) in both men’s indoor and outdoor track, one spot better than last year. The women were 9th (out of twelve teams) in outdoor track, which was the same as last season, but slipped to 11th out of 12 indoors.  On the bright side, at least they scored a few points at the respective SoCon meets. Davidson managed to score just one point in the two women’s competitions combined.

One of the more interesting stories in this varsity sports year for The Citadel came in men’s outdoor track. From the school’s season recap release:

Decathlete Ellison Glenn was the team’s biggest surprise this season. Glenn, who walked on the team as a senior, improved each week and capped his short collegiate track career with a fourth place finish in the decathlon and eighth place mark in the javelin at the 2012 SoCon Outdoor Championship.

“He came in and asked to be part of the team and we debated, but he kept coming to practice and sticking with it so we gave him a shot to see how it would shake out for us and it worked out amazingly,” said Bulldog head coach Jody Huddleston. “Taking fourth and eighth place and earning points in the conference meet after competing in college track for just one year is amazing.”

— As usual, the Bulldogs struggled (at least compared to their league peers) in cross country, although the men did climb one spot, finishing ninth out of eleven competing schools after finishing next-to-last the year before. The women were also next-to-last in 2010; in 2011, alas, they were last.

Remember, Charleston is not exactly conducive to fantastic cross country training. The Citadel’s best placement in the league in school history came in 1972, when it finished third.

— Tennis: Last year the Bulldogs were 3-21, 0-10 in the SoCon. This year a new coach took over. The results were about the same, though; The Citadel was 5-18 overall, and again went winless in the league. At least this year the Bulldogs beat a fellow Division I school (Bethune-Cookman).

— Volleyball: This was another sport with a first-year head coach, and another sport with a similar-looking record from last year. This year’s team won one more match than last year’s squad while finishing with the exact same league record (1-15).

— Women’s golf: The Citadel finished last, again, but some progress appears to have been made. At the SoCon Championships, the team finished 112 shots behind league champ Chattanooga. That’s actually an improvement from 2011, when the Bulldogs were 149 shots back of the conference titlists. The Citadel also had a golfer (Erica Pellegrini) named SoCon Player of the Week for the week ending March 6, which was unprecedented.

— Baseball: The Citadel had a second consecutive losing season, the first time that’s happened since 1966-67. However, there were bright spots in a year that clearly was one of transition, and the Bulldogs did make the league tournament this year after failing to do so in 2011. The key for 2013 will be to make sure the contributing freshmen from the squad all return (not to mention the sophomores and juniors as well).

— Basketball: 6-24, 3-15. Like baseball, lots of freshmen were employed. The problem with going through a tough year with a bunch of young players wasn’t as much that the Bulldogs only won six games this season; it’s that the transition (there’s that word again) came after a terribly disappointing 2010-11 campaign.

I’m afraid the enthusiasm for the hoops program will have to be self-generated until the team starts winning. When that happens, of course, everyone will jump on the bandwagon. It is the nature of sports.

— Football: Well, 4-7 (2-6) is better than 3-8 (1-7)…by one game. That bald assessment would be a bit harsh, as the team competed well almost every week, showing a good deal of improvement, and could easily have won two or three more games. The Bulldogs could have also lost that crazy game to Chattanooga and finished with the same exact record, too. Bill Parcells (“you are what your record says you are”) is right.

Prior to the last two years, The Citadel had not had back-to-back losing seasons in the “Big 3” sports over the same two-year period since the 1965-66 and 1966-67 school years. This year wasn’t as bad as last year, but the difference, at least in terms of raw wins and losses, was marginal.

Excuse the copy-and-paste approach to blogging, but I said this last year and I’ll say it this year:

The department of athletics pivots off the success of the football team; it’s the most high-profile sport at the school, it’s where the money is made, and I also think that it sometimes establishes momentum for the other sports.

I can’t emphasize enough how important the upcoming football season is going to be, not just for Kevin Higgins’ program, but for the entire varsity sports scene at The Citadel. A “positive vibe” is badly needed.

Simply put, the team has to win. It won’t be easy, as the schedule is not particularly favorable, but there can be no excuses. Next year has to be this year.

Let’s hope there is a lot more winning in all of The Citadel’s varsity sports in 2012-13.

From the baseball wayback machine: 100 years ago, a no-hitter won a championship for The Citadel

The sinister war clouds loom to-day
High in the north, o’er Hampton Park,
Where, lined for the forthcoming fray,
A battlefield spreads grim and stark.

Maroon is glinting through the air,
The Light-Blue’s brilliant in the sky;
And hostile pennons flutter fair
as student and cadet go by.

I dare not try to dope it out,
This rapid, sharp, enthusing clash,
Where one good team goes off in rout
As one good team sees Victory flash.

Defeat must crush one fighting nine
When one attains undying fame —
But take if from me, Friend O’ Mine,
It sure will be one lovely game.

The News and Courier, May 25, 1912

The Citadel and the College of Charleston had each fielded a baseball team in the years before 1912, and had met on numerous occasions, with the CofC prevailing more often than not. In 1912, however, there was a bit more formality to the series, as for the first time a tangible goodie was on the line.  A silver cup, the Allan Trophy, would be presented to the winning side.

After a postponement due to rain, the best-of-three series began on April 27 at College Park, then home of the College of Charleston. It was apparently not ideally suited to handle large crowds.  Some overeager patrons had to occasionally be moved off the playing field, delays that resulted in a total game time of an interminable two hours and five minutes.

The game started with a bang, as in the top of the first the CofC pulled off a 5-3-4 triple play. After the cadets scored one run in the third inning, the College responded in the bottom half of the frame with a five-spot. The Citadel’s starting pitcher, Jimmy Fair, was decidedly less than fair, allowing four hits (including a double) and also issuing a walk. His defense didn’t help him any, though, as two errors were also committed in the inning.

Fair was replaced on the mound by starting second baseman and team captain C.D. Gibson, who allowed just two runs over the final six innings. The Citadel rallied late, scoring three runs in the eighth and nine innings, but fell short by a score of 7-5.

Yesterday we went up-town,
An’ the College started kickin’ our dawg aroun’.
But we caught the Bantam an’ roasted him brown,
So they better quit kickin’ our Bulldog aroun’.

Game 2 was played at Hampton Park, home diamond of The Citadel, on May 11. Hampton Park may well have been the first “regular” home park for the cadets; in its history, The Citadel has also played home baseball games at Stoney Field, WLI Field, College Park, and Riley Park, and probably a couple of other places as well.

Sumter native Wendell Levi again started on the mound for the College of Charleston. Levi was also a fine basketball player and a noted expert on pigeons. The right-hander had a rough afternoon, relatively speaking, allowing five runs, including two in the first inning that set the tone for the game. Both runs were unearned, however, as the Maroon defense was not particularly good on the day.

Gibson, after pitching well in relief in Game 1, started Game 2 for the cadets and was outstanding in what may have been his first career start as a pitcher. He allowed just one unearned run while going the distance, and also drove in two runs at the plate. The Citadel won the game 5-1, with the stage set for a decisive Game 3.

Game 3 was also played at Hampton Park, on May 25, after The Citadel won a coin toss to decide which squad would host.   The game started at 4 pm sharp before an enormous crowd of nearly two thousand people, most of whom had paid 25 or 35 cents for the privilege of watching the encounter. The large number of patrons overwhelmed the city streetcar service, so some fans had to walk long distances to the game.

Levi and Gibson again started for their respective nines. The preview in The News and Courier had stated that pitching would decide the game:

If Gibson can go the distance with the form of last game the Blue should win. Whether Levi weakens again, or whether he can repeat past performances in mystifying the Citadel batsmen probably answers the query for a Maroon triumph. Gibson is a novice, Levi is a veteran, at the pitching art. Their right wings will decide the outcome.

Both pitchers would turn in outstanding efforts. Levi, pitching in the final game of his career, struck out eight in a complete-game effort while allowing just one run on three hits and no walks. He also had to pitch around six Maroon errors.

His only mistake would prove costly, though. In the bottom of the third inning, a double error put a cadet on second base with one out. The Citadel’s shortstop, Ed Antley, then doubled to left field, scoring the game’s only run.

Meanwhile, Gibson was proving too much for the Bantam hitters. He was at times what could be termed “effectively wild”, as he hit two batters. In an amusing incident in the second inning (amusing for The Citadel, at least), another wayward pitch from Gibson caused a CofC batter to duck; the ball struck the bat and bounced back to Gibson, for an easy 1-3 putout.

Gibson walked only two batters while striking out four. He was helped by fine defensive work (the cadets only committed one error).

In the top of the ninth, after a leadoff walk and fielder’s choice, the CofC had a runner on first with one out. Gibson recorded his fourth strikeout of the game for the second out, and as the batter swung and missed, the catcher threw to first base, catching the runner napping. Jimmy Fair (now playing first base for The Citadel) threw to a covering Antley at second, who tagged the runner out to end the game.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of a no-hit game ending like that…

The post-game hijinks were, as usual, slightly over the top:

A big parade, featuring the Minstrel Ad Club, the band, the sponsors and players in four carriages, the Allan trophy cup, and the battalion, wound its vociferous way through King Street in celebration of the victory after the game.

Tomorrow, the College of Charleston and The Citadel will meet in the Southern Conference baseball tournament. It’s a big game, but it will be tough to match the drama of 1912.

I”ll let the (seemingly anonymous) sportswriter-poet who wrote so majestically for The News and Courier one hundred years ago have the final word:

The tumult and the shouting dies
As Student and Cadet depart,
The one with somewhat quiet mien,
The other with more blithesome heart

They leave the darkening park to me,
And as I watch the sun’s last flame
Fading, a voice comes distantly:
“You bet it was one lovely game.”

Will the conference realignment train make a stop at the SoCon station?

It was inevitable that the never-ending saga of conference realignment would eventually impact the Southern Conference. To recap, some recent (and related) developments in the world of college athletics have included the following:

— As part of a CAA implosion, Virginia Commonwealth is joining the football-free Atlantic 10 (which will have 14 teams for basketball after adding VCU and Butler to replace Temple and Charlotte). Old Dominion, which has had a football program for about three hours, is making a big move to Conference USA. Georgia State, with even less football history than ODU, is joining the Sun Belt.

George Mason is staying in the CAA for the moment, although that may be because there isn’t room in the A-10 for GMU…not yet, anyway.

— Georgia State isn’t alone as a new member of the Sun Belt, as that league is also adding Texas State, but Florida International and North Texas are moving out (to C-USA). Denver is another Sun Belt school on the move, as it is heading to the WAC in a month, assuming the WAC will still exist in a month.

— Denver doesn’t have football. South Alabama once didn’t have a football program either, but now it does, and it will stay in the Sun Belt for all sports. The Jaguars begin league play in football this season.

— Arkansas-Little Rock would be the only non-football school in the Sun Belt, as things stand now. That is expected to change this week with the addition of UT-Arlington, which will give the Sun Belt 12 overall members, with 10 of them playing football.

— Another football newbie, UT-San Antonio, has already managed to join multiple FBS conferences (jilting the WAC for C-USA). UTSA thus has already joined more leagues (two) than it has played football seasons (one), a historic accomplishment.

— Appalachian State wants to move up to FBS land. To do so, Appy has to be invited to join an FBS conference, which has been problematic. The folks in Boone would love to hook up with C-USA, but the feeling may not be mutual. Not only did C-USA invite ODU instead of Appy, it is also bringing in Charlotte (UNCC to you old-timers out there). Let’s review some basic gridiron facts about Appalachian State, Old Dominion, and Charlotte:

– 0 (number of football victories by Charlotte in its history)
– 68 (number of football victories by ODU in its history)
– 67 (number of football victories by Appalachian State since the beginning of the 2006 season)

Ouch. That sound you hear is Appalachian State fans collectively grinding their teeth. (Incidentally, the Mountaineers have 555 wins over the program’s entire history.)

The lesson, as always: markets matter.

— Middle Tennessee State did everything it could to wangle an invitation to C-USA, but like Appalachian State, MTSU didn’t get the call. Again, markets matter. Murfreesboro and Boone lost out to Norfolk and Charlotte.

— Georgia Southern is going to try to raise a bunch of money so that it can move to the land of milk and honey, too. It’s supposed to be an eight-year fundraising campaign, which in today’s climate may be too long a period of time. Eight weeks would be better.

Georgia Southern’s late-to-the-party approach is probably due to the fact it has taken a while for the powers-that-be in Statesboro to warm up to the idea of being an FBS school, much to the annoyance of a vocal section of its fan base. It has been almost three years since GSU released a self-study (entitled “Football Classification Analysis”) that revealed just how difficult a move up to FBS could be for Georgia Southern. I wrote an extensive (warning: VERY extensive) post about the report when it first came out: Link

— Also on the “we want FBS” list: Liberty, a school that has had big-time gridiron aspirations for decades (as a Sports Illustrated story from 1989 illustrates). Liberty is ready to go; just give it 48 hours.

— Delaware is one of several schools being mentioned in what would become an expanded (and expansive) MAC. This article states that moving to the FBS “has been discussed favorably among members of the UD board of trustees and other high-ranking officials.” Whether that discussion has been about football only (and placing its other sports in another league) is open to question.

Meanwhile, no current all-sports MAC schools are being linked to another league, which comes as a surprise to at least one writer.

— James Madison, another CAA football-playing school trying to figure out its future, has also been linked to the MAC — but wait, there’s more. JMU reportedly has also drawn interest from the WAC. That would be the WAC which is a year away from being a two-school (New Mexico State and Idaho) football league, as things stand now.

Presumably the WAC is trying to put together western and eastern divisions to keep the conference alive, or maybe try to swing a Sun Belt-WAC merger of some sort. Good luck with that.

The MAC is adding Massachusetts for football but losing Temple, so it will be at 13 teams and may want to add another one — or three. Appalachian State is a possibility for this league too. Oddly, Appy may not be a factor in the Sun Belt sweepstakes, at least not yet, which will disappoint this columnist.

Honestly, I’m not sure why the MAC would feel the need to expand, but then I thought the SEC was fine at 12 schools. In today’s climate, if your conference has “only” 12 members, then it clearly needs to add even more schools and get to at least 14 if not 16 members, because otherwise the world will end (per the Mayans and/or Mike Slive).

The SoCon is holding its spring meetings at the end of May/beginning of June. According to Chattanooga AD Rick Hart, conference expansion will be the main (if not exclusive) topic of discussion. League commissioner John Iamarino stated that he had a short list of schools to target if that became necessary. Will it become necessary?

That depends on what Appalachian State and Georgia Southern do, of course, and it will also depend on what other conferences do. The league to watch is probably the CAA, but the confusing trail of realignment for SoCon schools will also pass through the MAC, Sun Belt, Big South, Atlantic Sun, and possibly the OVC. (No, I’m not buying the WAC — at least, not yet.)

The CAA’s problem is basically twofold (see this excellent overview). It has to decide whether it should continue being a player in the world of FCS, and it has to decide what its geographic focus will be. How it makes those decisions will go a long way in determining how much the SoCon could be affected.

Brian Mull of the Wilmingon (NC) Star-News wrote a solid piece from UNC-Wilmington’s perspective. UNCW is a non-football school at the southern end of the CAA. UNCW needs travel partners, and schools like the College of Charleston and Davidson would be ideal on that front. Mull also discusses other schools in the league as well, like UNC-Greensboro and (to prop up the football side of the CAA) Furman, Elon, and Appalachian State. UNC-Asheville of the Big South gets a mention.

He isn’t the first person to connect Davidson and the CofC to the CAA. As soon as ODU announced it was jumping ship, my twitter feed started humming with tweets from the likes of Jeff Goodman and Andy Katz, among others, all with the same “CAA must go after Davidson/CofC” message.

Just how interested would those two schools really be, though? I have my doubts.

The argument that the two would benefit from a move to a multi-bid hoops league falls flat, in my opinion, because the departures of VCU and ODU lessen the “value” of CAA hoops to the point where the conference is no longer a solid bet to get multiple bids on a semi-regular basis. Heck, even this past season CAA regular-season champ Drexel didn’t get an at-large bid to the NCAAs.

Combine the loss of VCU and ODU with the realization that league hoops stalwart George Mason and FBS contenders JMU and Delaware are all far from certain to stay in the CAA, and the move would be mostly lateral from an on-court perspective.

Another reason for Davidson and the CofC to move on could be the CAA’s new TV contract with NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus), which on the surface appears to easily surpass the SoCon’s PBS arrangement. However, with the recent defections of ODU and VCU (not to mention Georgia State), that NBCSN/CAA contract will likely be renegotiated. It is hard to determine just how much exposure schools like Davidson and the College of Charleston would get with that deal.

Is it worth the increased travel costs, loss of traditional rivalries, and/or the general effect on the schools’ total sports portfolio? As far as other sports are concerned, for example, I’m thinking about CofC baseball, which would definitely be hurt by a move to the CAA.

That isn’t to say there wouldn’t be positives for a school like the College of Charleston. For one thing, this isn’t your mother’s CofC. It now has about 10,000 undergraduate students, or roughly 1,000 students for every available parking space downtown. It’s a midsize state school looking to attract good students, including those valuable out-of-state students with their out-of-state tuition payments. Moving to a league with a more northern geographic scope might be seen as beneficial, as part of an overall strategy of recruiting students from the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states.

I think Davidson would be a much tougher sell. It’s a small school that isn’t going to get bigger. It’s been in the Southern Conference since 1936, with the exception of a brief three-year fling with the Big South more than two decades ago. That Davidson/Big South dalliance could be described as one of those affairs that scares people from ever straying again. I’m not sure Davidson is ready to trade in bus trips to Furman for airplane flights to Northeastern.

When trying to analyze future league membership, the potential loss by the SoCon of Appalachian State and/or Georgia Southern should be viewed differently than if Davidson/CofC/UNCG were to leave. If Appy and GSU depart the conference, a football replacement (or two) would be needed, which would not be the case if one or more of the non-football schools left the league.

The last two schools to be admitted to the SoCon were each smaller schools (Elon and Samford, both private universities), and I suspect that trend will continue.

I don’t see Coastal Carolina having much, if any, chance of joining the Southern Conference. CCU in the SoCon is a non-starter for Furman, The Citadel, and Wofford (and probably Davidson and Samford as well). Adding Coastal Carolina to the conference is of no benefit to those schools.

I thought Coastal Carolina might have a decent shot at getting a CAA invite, but there seems to be some resistance to CCU from that league as well. The leading football-school candidate for the CAA appears to be Stony Brook.

At this point, Coastal Carolina might have a better chance of moving out of the Big South and into another league by going the FBS route. That would be a costly move, but maybe CCU could ask its new football coach for a loan. After all, he has the money.

Here are some football-playing schools that might be good SoCon fits:

– VMI: yes, a back to the future move. Would VMI accept? Probably. Leaving the SoCon was not the best decision ever made by its administration. It would help if VMI had a travel partner of sorts, though…

– William&Mary: another back to the future candidate, and a Virginia school to pair with VMI. If the CAA completely collapses, William&Mary will become a school needing a new (and appropriate) home. Truth be told, at least part of its fan base would prefer the Patriot League, and I can understand that. If the Patriot League doesn’t expand, though, and the CAA can’t get its act together, I could see the Tribe back in the SoCon.

– Richmond: not happening. Richmond basketball is in the A-10 and UR isn’t giving that up anytime soon. Richmond as a football-only member of the SoCon? Possible, I suppose, but I doubt it (and wouldn’t support it, either).

– Mercer: hired former Furman coach Bobby Lamb to start a football program; however, it’s going to be non-scholarship. If it were scholarship, Mercer would be a very strong candidate.

– Presbyterian: PC would be a decent candidate if there weren’t already three football-playing schools in the league from South Carolina. Thus, it’s not likely to be invited, although Presbyterian would certainly be more palatable to Furman/The Citadel/Wofford than would Coastal Carolina.

– Jacksonville: I wrote about JU when I previewed The Citadel’s season opener last year. JU has potential, but it’s another non-scholarship football program.

– Gardner-Webb: It would rank behind most of the other schools I mentioned as far as likely SoCon contenders are concerned.

Incidentally, I am on board with smaller schools being the focus of the Southern Conference when/if it looks for new membership. I’m biased, so I want what is best for The Citadel. What is best for The Citadel, in my opinion, is to compete in a Division I all-sports conference with “like” schools.

Of course, there really aren’t any schools like The Citadel (save maybe VMI), but ideally the other schools would be similar in terms of enrollment size, academic standards, budgets for varsity athletics, etc. If you have a couple of days and want to read more about my ideas on “peer institutions” and what The Citadel should be doing going forward, I wrote a manifesto a month or so ago that Leo Tolstoy would have considered a tad lengthy.

What do I think will happen? I think Davidson and the College of Charleston will stay in the SoCon. I suspect Appalachian State will move to FBS within twelve months. Georgia Southern may stay at the FCS level for a while longer, unless the two schools are a “package deal” for an FBS league (likely the Sun Belt). VMI will wind up back in the SoCon.

I could be wrong about all of that, of course. There are no guarantees.

It’s all speculative at this point, though. Anybody can say anything, especially on the internet. On Saturday night a couple of tweets showed up on my timeline indicating that Clemson was going to move to the Big XII — “from all indications the board of trustees will approve”. I had never heard of the original tweeter, but the information (or misinformation) spread like wildfire. More than 36 hours after the initial tweets, no other source had confirmed the story. This is fairly typical.

At least that rumor was about Clemson. I’m starting to get tired of the Florida State-Big XII angle. Hey, if anyone wants to start a fun rumor, try this one:

FSU and Clemson are staying in the ACC, because they know that Notre Dame is joining the ACC as part of a joint entry with a mystery school. While eating lunch at a Bojangle’s in suburban Greensboro, an ACC official accidentally dropped an artist’s rendering of the new 16-team league. A quick-thinking cashier took a picture of it. I’ve acquired a photo of this mock-up. Consider this a TSA exclusive. It’s a “done deal”.

Happy conference realignment, everybody!