Friday, June 13, 2008

PC Piece for PC Pleas

The alliterative title may be overselling it a bit, but there was an interesting development recently involving transitioning Big South Conference member Presbyterian College...translate the post headline as "a politically correct decision settles a Presbyterian College request".

As many of you probably know by now, the Blue Hose of PC in Clinton, SC, have played D-II for some time and have begun the transitioning process into D-I and membership in the Big South. NCAA policies and timelines being what they are, PC does not just get to jump in and play--there is a waiting/transition period: in this case, a four-year period altogether.

In the meantime, you have been seeing Presbyterian showing up on most Conference materials starting in 2007-08, with the PC teams incorporated in all schedules starting in 2008-09. The Blue Hose will not be fully vested and eligible across the board for everything that comes with D-I and the Big South until 2011-12. Seriously...I told you it was a long wait, but again--those are the rules.

So, here's the twist that took place when the Conference leadership got together for the Spring Meetings in Hilton Head: PC campaigned for a bigger stake in the Big South club...and won. Director of Athletics William "Bee" Carlton pled his case for proper recognition for his student-athletes who would be competing on the field of play but would not have their accomplishments acknowledged in the standings under the status quo. The debate that followed looked at the matter from more angles than I'm going to burden you with here, but suffice to say that the idea gained momentum and support to the degree that the matter looked far different when the meetings adjourned than it did when they convened.

Originally, PC games would be scheduled, but not count toward Conference standings/seedings and therefore would not impact Conference championships and awards--until such point as Presbyterian was fully eligible (sidebar: transitioning schools can "fast-track" two sports for eligibility in two years rather than four...for PC, those sports are softball and men's tennis).

When all was said and done, the Presbyterian College Blue Hose games would count in the Conference standings for all sports, PC was to be listed in the standings at the place befitting the school's record (not at the bottom or as 0-0), student-athletes would be eligible for Conference awards during and at the end of the season, and PC could even win a regular season championship (excluding football this upcoming year, since PC does not play a full Conference schedule)--but the school cannot compete in tournaments or advance to any post-season play; that part of the NCAA structure was not altered in any way.

It will make some things very interesting, especially if you're trying to keep stats straight, like the folks in our PR this scenario, Presbyterian will be recognized by the Big South for more than by the NCAA--so you could see someone post a record acknowledged by the Conference but not by the national leader boards, etc. Stay tuned for the developments in this area over the next couple of seasons.

Odds favor the impact being a small one--after all, PC is moving up in level and transitions like that are not always easy. It would be foolhardy to forecast a glut of Presbyterian championships during the transition years...but it's not out of the question to see the "new kids" win something (remember the surprises the Blue Hose threw down in football last year). It's a tricky situation...after all, most of us would agree that the athletes are competing just as hard on the fields/courts/etc. of play and deserve the merits (and demerits) that come with winning and losing, just as all the other schools the same time, it's not the way we've seen transitions like this handled before, hence the debate and discussion that occurred.

Either way, the proposal that started with PC was voted through (after some alteration and amendments), so look for Presbyterian College to be treated like everybody else for the most part in the season ahead (just don't look for them in the tournaments).

Why no fuss with Gardner-Webb, also coming into the Big South? No transition necessary: the Runnin' Bulldogs were already D-I, playing in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and can begin as a fully eligible member immediately. At least that is a simple matter...more complicated, apparently, is which way the Runnin' Bulldog should face--word has it he needs to look left now, but I only have the "right" dog picture, which may in fact be the "wrong" dog picture...we'll settle that later...

And a quick note to close--CONGRATS to Big South staffer Nic Bowman, who got married this past that's a reason for a SHOUT-out !!!

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