by Jerry Rashid
On July 1, 2016, Coastal proudly took its place as the newest member of the Sun Belt Conference. It didn’t take long for the Chanticleers to make a name for themselves in their new league as the men’s soccer and volleyball teams each brought home conference titles. The women’s soccer and women’s cross country teams finished conference runners-up while Annie Bothma was named the Sun Belt’s Women’s Cross Country Newcomer of the Year. Annie Bothma earned the Sun Belt’s women’s cross country most outstanding performer and freshman of the year honors, and in volleyball, Leah Hardman was tabbed the conference’s player of the year and Tahleia Bishop newcomer of the year.
“I am very pleased to have been a part of the University’s Sun Belt Conference Championship this year,” said Shaun Docking, who has served as Coastal’s head men’s soccer coach since 1998. “We all realize this is going to be a very challenging league for all of our sports, and I am delighted that as a University we have decided to step up to the challenge of playing at the top Division I level for all of our sports and as an institution. It has raised the profile of our institution within the state of South Carolina and across the country.”
In Fall 2017, the Chanticleer football program will transition into the Sun Belt Conference and make its debut in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The conference will hold its inaugural football championship game in 2018.
The Sun Belt is a permanent part of the “Group of Five” conferences, joining the American Athletic Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Mid-American Conference and Conference USA, which sends its highest-rated champion to a “New Year’s Six” bowl game every season. The conference has secured ties to no fewer than five bowl games. In addition to the potential of the College Football Playoff, the league has guaranteed berths in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala., the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., the AutoNation Cure Bowl in Orlando, and the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson, Ariz.