Monday, April 28, 2008

Do you feel a DRAFT...

...or is it just me?

Congratulations to two Big South football players who made the big leap to the pro ranks with this weekend's NFL Draft:

Simpson has been electric his entire CCU career, with the ability to seemingly catch anything in his zip code. His selecton on day one of the draft weekend made him the second Big South Conference player ever taken in the draft--joining his former Chanticleers teammate Tyler Thigpen (CCU QB taken in the 7th round of the 2007 draft by the Vikings, Thigpen spent the 2007 season with the Kansas City Chiefs). Simpson climbed up the draft board thanks to impressive numbers at the NFL combine and went from "sleeper" selection to second-rounder! He should have room with the Bengals, who have become lighter at the receiver position due to releasing Chris Henry and playing a high-dollar staring contest with Pro Bowler Chad Johnson. Cincinnati grabbed one more WR in the 3rd round as insurance (Florida's Andre Caldwell), but Simpson is expected to have a great shot at significant playing time in his rookie season.

Johnston has played like a force of nature for the Runnin' Bulldogs on his way to All-American status two years running in the FCS (2007 consensus 1st team, 2006 2nd team A.P.). He joins a Kansas City squad lean at defensive end (only three on the roster--including Johnston), and therefore stands a good shot at getting plenty of downs to demonstrate his pass-rushing abilities. The Chiefs definitely saw the draft as a way to improve their defensive front, taking LSU's Glenn Dorsey with the fifth overall pick, but don't overlook the contribution GWU's star defender can make on that squad!

Some of you may be thinking--surely there have been more Big South players taken...well, yes and no. Liberty has had three players drafted in the last 20 years, for example, but not as a Big South football team at the time. Strictly speaking, this year's draft makes it three players taken from active/current Big South schools by NFL squads. If you're a real draft-crazed list person, you will LOVE what they did at USA Today: a database of all the picks for the last two decades, which you can break down by college, conference, NFL team, state, position, round, and more. And if you're looking for the stories from the National Football League itself, look no further than this link to the draft coverage.

By the way, that baseball series we talked about last time? Coastal took two out of three at VMI over the weekend to take the lead in the Big South "pennant race."

That's all for now...more SHOUT-outs on the way soon...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Big South "Pennant Racing"

If you've been paying attention to the Big South baseball standings lately, you know what a big weekend this is already--if not, here's the deal:

Coastal Carolina is 10-2 / 34-8,
VMI is 10-5 / 21-20,

and the Chanticleers and Keydets have a three-game series running today through Sunday.

With less than four weeks until the Conference Championship, the series will give one school a leg up--seeding is based strictly on the number of Big South wins. They have ten wins apiece coming in, but the winner of the series will be the first-place team coming out.

Friday's game is not being video streamed, but the weekend games are--check them out on The Big South Edge!

Meanwhile, the race in softball is not currently as close as the baseball chase--Winthrop holds first place at 11-1, with Radford sitting at second but well back at 7-2. Fewer games remain to decide that order: the tournament will be played May 8-10 (at Winthrop).

As for life in the Conference Office, not only are all the appropriate arrangements being handled for the remaining events of the current calendar, but attention is increasingly directed to plans, meetings, and publications for next year--the wheel keeps spinning!

COMMENT CONTEST ?!?! We are hoping more folks start reading SHOUT--and we'd also like to see some more comments from our readers. So here's the deal--enter a printable comment to this blog post and we'll send you your choice of a past Conference media guide, basketball tournament program, fan guide, or autographed photo of any Big South staff member! All rare prizes of little to no market value--what more could you ask for? Post now!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Championship Swing

Have you seen the rapid-fire awarding of Big South Championships over the past week?

It all started with Charleston Southern winning the 2008 Women's Golf Championship last week (CSU's first Conference crown this year)...

...then came four champions in one day--each won on the same campus! Winthrop hosted the championship tournament for tennis and the championship meet for outdoor track (both for men and women), so it was a busy weekend in Rock Hill:

Women's Tennis--Winthrop

Men's Tennis--Radford

Women's Outdoor Track & Field--Coastal Carolina

Men's Outdoor Track & Field--Liberty

Coming into today, that gave the Big South five different champions in a row--a streak broken with the 2008 Men's Golf Championship and first-place finisher Coastal Carolina.

Let's review...that's 16 of the 18 Big South Conference Championships awarded (with softball and baseball to complete the cycle in May). Of those 16, Liberty has won EIGHT, followed by three for Coastal, two for Winthrop, and one each for High Point, Radford, and Charleston Southern. Only VMI and UNC Asheville have yet to capture a title for themselves this academic/athletic calendar.

(Note from Mark B.: the original post lacked the team photos due to some Blogger upload error messages, but we were able to get them up the next day--thanks for your patience!)

Keep on reading SHOUT for more fun stories and don't forget to check out for all your breaking Conference News!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tennis Anyone?

Pardon the title cliche, but I'm at the Big South Conference Men's & Women's Tennis Championships and I couldn't help it.

I've been in the press box tower at the center of the Winthrop University Memorial Courts all day yesterday and today, overseeing--and voicing--the video streaming for The EDGE on I'll be back to do it all again for the finals on Saturday...hopefully the weather will smile on us here in Rock Hill (SC). We have had two picture-perfect days but the forecast has rain lurking for tomorrow. ***SCHEDULE NOTE: men's and women's matches will both begin at 9am on Saturday, a move precipitated by the potential precipitation!***

It's a really interesting week at the athletic complex here, with the men's and women's tournaments being played out at the 12-court tennis layout near the Winthrop Coliseum, and the New Balance Outdoor Track & Field Championships being staged a short distance away at Winthrop's track. Add in the tennis banquet on Wednesday night (which I emceed, fun stuff). Insert a pat on the back for Winthrop here for being able to host and handle so many championship events this year--men's soccer, tennis (m/w), outdoor track (m/w), and softball (next month), plus a first-round men's basketball game (adding in the banquets, programs, and assorted extras that go along with those events)...that's quite a year for the WU athletics department!

So let's talk tennis for a minute. On the men's side, top seed Radford got a first round bye and won in the second round to make it into the finals. The number one team advancing is naturally not surprising, but seeing they will play the 6-seed may raise an eyebrow or two. Host team Winthrop surprised the 3-seed (Charleston Southern) Thursday and the 2-seed Friday to enter the final (with a key to both wins coming from victories in the #3 slot for doubles--after going winless from the #3 position all season). If the Eagles can win it all, they would do so by beating # 3-2-1 in succession. Of course, the Highlanders have no intention of seeing that happen, so the stage is set for a fascinating final: the top seed vs. the host school.

The women's side started the same way, with top seed Winthrop earning a first round bye and winning once to make it into the finals...which in turn gives the Eagles a shot at two titles on the same day. Winthrop will face 3-seed Coastal Carolina, after CCU pulled off the amazing one-two punch of beating Liberty's previously undefeated first flight players in singles and doubles! That means the women's final is another installment in the classic Winthrop-Coastal rivalry.

Meanwhile, over at the track, Jon Hart of Liberty has been smashing records with his hammer (throw) and the competition has been fierce across the board--with one more day of finals to go in before the champions are crowned. Liberty's men and Coastal's women had the lead after Thursday's events.

While we've been staging track-and-tennis-palooza here, elsewhere in South Carolina the Big South Golf Championships are also happening...the women's title has already been claimed by Charleston Southern and the men's title is coming up in the next few days.

So catch your breath...whew...softball and baseball championships will be in May. The lineup just keeps on rolling in the Big South!

By the way, among the special events to watch for this weekend (in addition to these championships and the regular baseball and softball line-up): VMI lacrosse is on The Edge!

More to come--thanks for reading SHOUT!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Big Competition? Big South!

Let's talk about some serious competition does the Big South stack up against some other conferences and athletes right now?

It's a good time to ask the question--first a quick glance at the baseball/softball showdowns against ACC schools from this week...on the baseball side, High Point and Coastal Carolina topped Wake Forest and NC State, respectively, while Liberty dropped one to Virginia...and in softball, Liberty (vs. UVa) and Radford (vs. NC St.) each split doubleheaders. For the week, that's a 4-3 record against a neighboring major conference in the two sports. Not too shabby.

Before we leave the diamond--another note about the Chanticleers: Coastal Carolina is ranked in the nation's top 25 in three of the five popularly recognized baseball polls. Bravo!

Now to the major newsmakers and record breakers for the Big South against opponents and competitors across the nation and around the world: the stellar student-athletes of Big South Conference track and field.

I'll start out with Liberty senior and Big South Track & Field Athlete of the Week Clendon Henderson (pictured), who's rewriting his name on the Conference record books in the throwing events. Henderson's finest day came in the recent Texas Relays. He must have liked the air back in his home state, because Henderson set school and Big South Conference records in the discus (204'3" / 62.26m) and shot put (61'3" / 18.67m), along with a personal best in the hammer (190'). Perspective is necessary...all three marks are good enough for automatic NCAA qualifier status (more on that below), and the discus distance is best in the NCAA this year and TENTH IN THE WORLD. You read that right: the Big South goes global!

Not to be overlooked, Flames teammate Brandon Hoskins set a new Conference record in the decathlon (7800 points), which earned him NCAA qualifier status as well.

In fact, the qualifier list is absolutely riddled with student-athletes from Big South members!

In addition to Henderson and Hoskins in the events listed above, Liberty has six more on the books: Evans Kigen (3000m steeplechase), Kolby Shepherd (pole vault), Matt Parker (high jump), Clarence Powell (triple jump), Dan Newell (decathlon), and Jon Hart (shot put).

Impressed yet? That's just one school.
Let's talk about the sprinting quartet from Charleston Southern for a moment: Alonzo Spurley, Michael Rhue (pictured from indoor race), Cornelius Tyler, and Levi Brooks have made the field as CSU's 4x100m relay squad AND as the 4x400m relay team. But wait, there's more...they have all made individual events as well: Spurley in 100m/200m, Rhue in 200m/400m, Tyler in 200m, and Brooks in 400m. Each one of these guys could steal a line from Lightning McQueen: "Speed--I am speed."

More? You bet.
Try Coastal Carolina with seven: Thomas Jordan and Kyle Hoddy in the javelin, Galen Jones and Jake Edelman in the hammer, Jacques Watson in the high jump, Keith Graham in the long jump, and Tyrone Murphy in the 400m hurdles.

Rounding out the group, let's add Tamas Kovacs of High Point (5000m), Jason Williams of Winthrop (high jump), and Timothy Morse of Radford (hammer).

By my count, that's already 22 NCAA qualifiers...just from the men! The women add four more to the list: Dionne Gibson (CSU, 200m), Felicitas Mensing (CCU, 3000m steeplechase), LeAuna Sistrunk (CCU, 100m hurdles, pictured), and Ashley Howard (WU, discus).

So at least 26 so far--quite a feat (and if I missed anybody, I'm sorry, it's a lot of names to sort through--and that's actually a good problem to have)!

I started with the Liberty men's team, and I will end with them too...they're ranked 14th in the nation right now (and that's the "USTFCCCA" poll, rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?). Again, some perspective may help understand how significant that ranking is--only two schools from "non-BCS conferences" are on that list (Liberty and UTEP). But for those two, the whole list consists of what most of us would consider major universities from power conferences. What's more, the Flames got there without any points from one of the best distance runners in the country--senior Josh McDougal has not run outdoor in any NCAA events this spring!

Why did I go on at such length?
First of all, they earned it, plain and simple.
Secondly, the 2008 New Balance Track and Field Championships are next week at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, April 17th-19th. Go if you can, but if you can't, look to The Edge (presented by State Farm) for video coverage of all three days of competition and to for results. The Edge will also have coverage of the Men's and Women's Tennis Championships going on at the same time across the same athletic complex at WU.

Another great subject, but I'll save that one for later...consider that a fault for not squeezing it in today, but a net gain for another day. And while all this is going on, there's GOLF, too. No, I'm not talking about The Masters, but after that: the Big South Women's Championship 4/14-16 and the Men's Championship 4/20-22. Spring championship season is in full swing, folks...
Wow--have a great weekend and enjoy the championship weeks ahead!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Shameless Plug

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you
The Big South Official Online Store !!!

Well, I did say the blog post today is nothing but a shameless plug, didn't I?

But seriously, give the store a look. It's been a long time coming for the Big South, trying to work with our merchandising and internet partners to get something just right for everyone--especially for our anticipated customers: the extended family, friends, and fans of the Big South Conference.

What makes this store different from those you may be used to is that everything is made-to-order. We are not warehousing umpteen thousand of the same shirt hoping you will like it and buy it. After all, don't you think you are a better judge of what you want? I hope so.

Anyway, the model for the Online Store here is that the guest can make all the choices to arrive at the right item: pick Conference logo only or Conference logo with a chosen school, in what color (more choices here than you might expect), and of course in what size. Given those choices and all the available items, including hats, t-shirts, golf shirts, warm-up jackets/pants, long-sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies, you will quickly see how big the variety of selections becomes while you pick what goes in your shopping cart.

So go to and pick Online Store off the menu or from one of the orange ads (or skip that step and grab the Store link from the beginning of this post) and start shopping!

That's all, just wanted to let everybody know that the Big South is up and running with e-commerce today...feel free to offer your feedback about the Store through the main site or through comments on SHOUT. Thanks!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sadness at PC

With heavy hearts, we offer our condolences to the Presbyterian College community on the loss of Larry Carlson Thomas, killed early Friday morning in a one-car accident.

As reported in a release on PC's website, officials say the sophomore wide receiver for the Blue Hose had been driving on Interstate 26 in Newberry County, SC, and was declared dead at the scene at 3:30am Friday, April 4th. A passenger in the car (also a PC student) was treated and released from a Columbia hospital.

Coach Bobby Bentley gave his team the news Friday morning. The team understandably canceled the practice scheduled for Friday afternoon along with the scrimmage set for Saturday the 5th. Although the Presbyterian Blue Hose football team will return to practice Tuesday the 8th, one can assume it will be anything but business as usual for quite some time.

The Big South Family has suffered losses before, and while it is always hard on all of us to see youth and talent taken away so early--it is clearly hardest on the family and friends of those we have lost. Please join us as we extend our thoughts and prayers in this time of mourning to those closest to Larry Thomas.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Conference News & Web-o-Rama

I'll open with the "breaking news"...I was just about to click PUBLISH when the release hit about the Conference announcing the 2008 Class for the Big South Hall of Fame. Get the names and their claims to fame with the release on!

We've been collecting a few gems to share with the SHOUT crowd, plus we've got the SHOUT debut of the Big South on...

First, the Sasser Cup Standings have been updated through the winter sports results.
"What's the Sasser Cup?" Glad you asked!
Named for former Big South Commissioner Buddy Sasser, the award is given to the Conference member with the best overall athletic year. That's calculated with a points system based on a school's finish in the regular season and in the tournament for each sport that the institution participates in for the Big South (news release with standings and full explanation at this link).

Although the spring sports will have much to say about the final results, so far it's a clean sweep for the Liberty Flames through the fall and winter. After winning seven of the ten Conference Championships awarded this academic/athletic year, LU leads in the respective All-Sports Award standings for Men and for Women, and therefore naturally holds first place in the race for the Sasser Cup Trophy. So far, so good for the folks at Liberty--congratulations on a spectacular season to date across all sports!

Not to be denied, Coastal Carolina sits at second in the Women's All-Sports Award standings and in the overall Sasser Cup list, while Winthrop holds second in the Men's All-Sports Award and third in the overall rankings. Plenty of opportunities remain for movement in the standings with eight titles still to come this year: golf (M/W), tennis (M/W), outdoor track (M/W), baseball, and softball.

New topic...the selection of the next host for the Big South Conference Women's Basketball Championship has been announced. High Point University will be the home for the tourney in 2009 and 2010. The Millis Center on the HPU campus welcomes the event after two successful years at the Justice Center in Asheville, with host school UNCA. It could be a good sign for the Lady Panthers--after all, UNCA won a title in one of the two years the event was contested on the Bulldogs' home floor. Aside from that Asheville victory, the tournament championship has been firmly in the grip of Liberty (11 titles) and Radford (9) throughout the Conference's history. TRIVIA--of the 22 tournaments staged to date, we have accounted for all but one of the winners in this paragraph--who else captured a Big South crown at the women's tourney? (answer at the end of the post)

Time for Web-o-Rama...our trip across the web sites of the Big South Conference to find news and notes for your amusement (a couple of these surfaced when we did Big South Sportstalk, but very few folks saw that, so I'm bringing them back)!

Charleston Southern--try the fan poll on the lower right of the home page: "As a CSU fan, would lights on outdoor playing fields increase home attendance? (Yes/Maybe/No)" This type of question can carry a little more weight than the typical web opinion poll, because this actually provides valuable information to the athletic department. The results are split so far, meaning you may want to enter your vote now if this issue matters to you!

Coastal Carolina--look for the blog "Out of the Pen" from members of the baseball team. That's right, more bloggin' in the Big South! Keep up with the Chanticleers by visiting "Out of the Pen," linked from this post today or from the blog list in the right column every day.

Gardner-Webb--I know, the Runnin' Bulldogs are not full members yet, but they will be soon. This week they released the GWU 2008 volleyball schedule, their first as part of the Big South and "arguably the toughest schedule the Bulldogs have faced since moving to Division I."

High Point--the Big South Conference Choice Hotels Baseball Player of the Week is also the McDonald's HPU Athlete of the Week: outfielder Pablo Rosario. Read more about his exploits on High Point's home page or see his player bio. Oh, and did we mention the thing about High Point hosting the women's basketball tournament? Just making sure you're paying attention.

Liberty--ah, you may recall how we mentioned Ritchie McKay (Men's Basketball Coach) in the last post and his status in the "Fashionable Four." Well, he advanced to the second round, and you can read Liberty's take on that from the Flames' site or check out the bracket on CollegeInsider, where analyst Seth Greenberg expressed "amazement" at McKay upsetting Washington's Lorenzo Romar.

[Sidebar: you already knew Radford's Brad Greenberg was eliminated in the "Style-In" count out Winthrop's Randy Peele (from coach/analyst Seth Greenberg: "Why is Randy in the field?") and High Point's Bart Lundy (from Lundy himself: "I have no chance."), making McKay the only Conference survivor.]

Presbyterian--do you think PC's transition up to D-I means they're small? Ask the football teams left in their wake last season about that, then check out the NFL scouts visiting the campus in Clinton for PC Football's Annual Pro Day. As Yoda once asked, "Judge me by my size, do you?" No, say the Blue Hose, "and well you should not..."

Radford--it's worth one more SHOUT-out: the RU Director of Athletics keeps his own blog! Visit Lineburg's Line linked from this page or from the lower right of the Radford home page.

UNC Asheville--if it seems I'm plugging some of the blogs out there...I am--and here's another one: the "Bulldog Blog" from UNCA. There's a box linking right off of the UNCA home page (bottom center area).

VMI--check out the video salute to Big South Conference and VMI all-time leading scorer Reggie Williams, as the Keydets acknowledge the senior's remarkable contributions to the team over the last few years.

Winthrop--the box in the upper right of the Winthrop home page says it all: "Is football in Winthrop's future?" That's been a popular question for years, but the WU administration is taking the question seriously and looking at what it would take to make such a thing happen. Eagles fans will find it interesting, as will many followers of big-time college sports.

Okay, YES, I thought about coming up with a gem of an April Fool's column, but I just couldn't do it. After all, this is the internet--putting out stories like "Notre Dame thumbs nose at other offers, joins Big South" or "All Big South schools to add football by 2010, League expands to 12", etc. would probably not have seemed like a good idea by the time they traveled around the web and back. We'll try to stick with fun minus the practical jokes. Meanwhile, ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" guys had fun of their own Tuesday with the notion of the NCAA invalidating the end of the Kansas-Davidson game and making them play the final 16 seconds over again, an amusing concept (as long as you're not Kansas).

And wanted the TRIVIA answer (can you still remember the question)?
Former Big South member Campbell won the women's tournament title back in 1989. Only that win by the Camels and the UNCA Bulldogs' victory in 2007 have kept Radford and Liberty from collectively sweeping all the Big South Women's Basketball Championships over the last 22 years.