Let's negotiate: CofC's board approves talks with CAA

File Photo (WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The College of Charleston's Board of Trustees on Friday morning gave the school's athletic director and president initial approval to begin negotiations with the Colonial Athletic Association.

The 18-member panel voted 12-5 to approve negotiations between the school and the CAA. A timeline was not set for the negotiations, but Athletic Director Joe Hull said he expected the talks to progress quickly.

After the vote, the CAA released a statement on Twitter from Commissioner Tom Yeager saying the conference was "thrilled" with the outcome of the vote.

Friday afternoon, CofC President P. George Benson released a statement explaining the steps made by the Board of Trustees in the meeting and what it would presumably mean for the college.

"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," Benson said.

According to Benson, support for the possible move has also come from the Cougar Club and the school's Student Government Association.

However, the Board of Trustees did not go ahead with final approval of joining the CAA until the conference had presented a contract to CofC. By a unanimous, the Board of Trustees approved an amendment that would require a second vote before the move to the CAA is approved.

The measure was proposed by Jeff Schilz, who has been outspoken against moving to the CAA and said Friday he had a list of 25 reasons why the move is a bad idea.

In the meeting that started shortly after 9 a.m., several members of the 18-member board said joining the CAA would give the school and its teams opportunities to grow and network. However, John Busch warned that the move would be expensive and would not be something the college could undo.

Busch said he would rather see CofC stay out of the CAA{} and instead opt for scheduling bigger name, out-of-conference teams. He pointed to Davidson College, saying that school opted to remain in the Southern Conference.

"When we make the move, we should have three goals in mind," said Trustee Demetria Clemons.

Those goals are to increase competitiveness of the athletic programs, provide student-athletes with a "first-class experience" and put the college in a position to compete for championships, Clemons said.

Board of Trustees Chair Greg Padgett said no one involved in making the decision was taking the responsibility lightly, adding it is a "compelling thing" to enter into negotiations with the CAA.

But Padgett added he was "all in" on negotiating because he thinks it will benefit the school and the students.

Schilz told the board the decision to move was based only about money and men's basketball. He said the men's basketball program needs to be successful, which he said has not been in the last 13 years. If head coach Doug Wojcik does not win games, he will not be leading the team for long, concluding that a new conference would add more pressure on him, Schilz said.

Schilz added that he wants to see the school grow and eventually move out of the SoCon, but said they need to fix the current issues first.

While the Board of Trustees approved the measure, it does not mean the college will join the CAA. It only means Hull and Benson have the authority to begin negotiations.

The college officially said that they have been in contact with the CAA but no official offer has been made. The board mentioned CofC's "potential interest in joining the league" in a statement but no recommendation has been made on a decision. Hull mentioned that the school was intrigued by CAA's television exposure, which he said is much more than that of the Southern Conference.

"I want what's best for the college. I trust the trustees. I do. There are great benefits to go to the Colonial," Hull said.

The biggest benefits mentioned in Friday morning's meeting were visibility in major cities, including New York, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia, and a conference television deal.

But Wojcik said exposure through televised games might be more difficult to come by.

"There's so much on TV. I couldn't tell you what channels are on in my own home. If you look for us, you'll find us. If you're not, you won't find us," he said. "But it can help with recruiting."

Though Hull admits he will act on the behalf of all sports, Hull also says CAA is a better basketball conference, and with that being CofC's main revenue sport, will definitely be considered.

According to Hull, SoCon Commissioner John Iamarino has been understanding and helpful in gathering information about the move. One of the huge factors he said he has to consider is the $600,000 the school would have to pay if it were to leave the SoCon now.

In the future that amount could drop to $300,000. Another consideration, Hull said, is missed class time and extensive travel with its associated costs.


About the CAA:

The CAA is currently made up of Delaware, Drexel, George Mason, Georgis State, Hofstra, James Madison University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Northeastern, Old Dominion, Towson and William & Mary.

Old Dominion is slated to leave for Conference USA and Georgia State is leaving for the Sun Belt Conference. Both teams are departing in 2013.

The conference was founded in 1979 and currently fields 21 sports.

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