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Charleston approves talks with CAA

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CHARLESTON, SC (College of Charleston - letter from the president) -- For several months the College of Charleston has been considering the possibility of leaving the Southern Conference and joining another intercollegiate athletic conference, the Colonial Athletic Association.This possibility has been the subject of a sustained and complex administrative review. The issue has also been the subject of considerable media interest, both locally and nationally.

For a Division I NCAA athletic program, a change in athletic conference should never be made lightly, and we have given this topic a great deal of time and attention. I am writing to inform you that, earlier today, our Board of Trustees authorized the College of Charleston to enter into negotiations with the Colonial Athletic Association, so that we might determine whether or not an agreement to affiliate with the Colonial might be reached. These negotiations will begin immediately.

As background, the College of Charleston joined the Southern Conference in 1998. The SoCon’s current members are The Citadel, Wofford, Furman, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Samford, Elon, Davidson, Western Carolina, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and UNC Greensboro. The College has enjoyed significant athletic success in the SoCon, and we have had excellent relationships with the SoCon member institutions. I am currently the Vice Chair of the conference, and I have great respect for the SoCon presidents and athletic directors with whom I have had the honor of working.

The Colonial Athletic Association has nine continuing members: William and Mary, James Madison, George Mason, Delaware, UNC Wilmington, Towson, Drexel, Hofstra, and Northeastern. The Colonial institutions are mid-sized or large universities, and most of them are public, with significant research profiles.

We have exhaustively reviewed the opportunities and risks associated with remaining in the SoCon and moving to the Colonial. I believe that a move to the Colonial, if successfully negotiated, would include the following benefits:

· The majority of our student-athletes would have access to stronger conference opponents and increased opportunities for at-large bids to NCAA championship tournaments.

· The majority of our athletic coaches would have a stronger position from which to recruit the best possible student-athletes.

· Our student-athletes would have stronger academic support when traveling to away games.

· Our alumni in South Carolina would continue to have many opportunities to see our teams in action, but a much larger number of our alumni living outside South Carolina would now have access to College of Charleston games.

· All of our students, faculty, and staff would have access to the resources of the Colonial Academic Alliance, which promotes undergraduate research, study abroad opportunities, and faculty and staff professional development. Details of these programs can be reviewed at ColonialAcademicAlliance.org.

· The entire College community will enjoy the advantages of association with a group of nationally recognized universities.

While I have always valued our ties with the SoCon universities, the College’s Executive Team and I unanimously agree that we should enter into negotiations with the Colonial. Other expressions of support for a possible move to the Colonial have come from the Cougar Club (by a vote of 21-1) and the Student Government Association (by a vote of 21-4, with four abstentions).

I have great respect for all those who would prefer to remain in the SoCon. However, assuming our negotiations are successful, I ultimately believe that a move to the Colonial would be consistent with the aspirations identified in the College’s Strategic Plan and will work to the advantage of our students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

I wholeheartedly agree with the assessment of the College’s legendary former Men’s Basketball Coach John Kresse, who had this to say about a move: “The Colonial’s coaches, student-athletes, facilities, locations and their national visibility have made it a premier conference. I personally believe our association as a member would be a perfect fit for the College of Charleston.”

I welcome your questions about our athletic conference affiliation. In addition, I expect to discuss this topic at next month’s Town Hall meetings for faculty, staff, and students and in a future meeting of the Staff Advisory Committee to the President. We previously have talked about this topic in meetings of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the President and the Faculty Budget Committee.

Finally, I want to thank all those who have taken the lead in reviewing our options for athletic conference affiliation. Many people have taken a critical leadership role in this assessment, especially members of our Board of Trustees; Joe Hull, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics; Vince Benigni, Faculty Athletics Representative; Erica Arbetter, President of the Student Government Association; and all the members of the Executive Team.

Warm regards,­­

George Benson

President
College of Charleston

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