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CCU Atheneum: Charles King and his family enjoy their seats in the Family Zone.
Charles King and his family enjoy their seats in the Family Zone.

CCU football is a season of family fun

by Derrick Bracey
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The lights of Coastal Carolina University’s Brooks Stadium are burning hot, sophomore quarterback Alex Ross lofts a pass into the corner of the end zone, and senior wide receiver DeMario Bennett leaps, catches the ball and taps his toes inbounds for a touchdown. The crowd goes crazy, stomping feet, throwing high-fives. Bleachers full of teal-clad fans make themselves known.

These fans are young and old. They’re from all over the Grand Strand, some from farther away. They’re students, faculty and staff of CCU. But more than anything else, outnumbering any other demographic, they are families.

Since Chanticleer football began in 2003, the program has excelled, having won five Big South Championships and producing six NFL players. While the Chanticleers enjoyed early success, the program has undergone a transformation under second-year head coach Joe Moglia.

Last year, Moglia led the Chanticleers to a Big South Conference Championship, breaking the record for total offense along the way. The team also won its first playoff game, and Moglia was named 2012 Big South Conference Coach of the Year.

So far this season, the program has already achieved its highest national ranking, scored more than 50 points in three consecutive games (a program first) and tied the record for most consecutive regular season wins.

“This has been the best start in the program’s history,” says Matt Hogue, associate vice president for marketing and the voice of the Chanticleers. “We’re poised to have the best season we’ve ever had.”

The team’s success has gone hand-in-hand with the growth of CCU. As the university has progressively gotten larger, the communities of the Grand Strand and Conway have united to build a fan base that continues to get stronger with every victory.

CCU has always reached out to invite these communities to university functions, but in the last two years, the Department of Athletics has begun to focus on programs designed on making Chanticleer games an experience for the whole family, increasing the diversity of the fan base and building legacies by appealing to younger fans.

Last year, CCU initiated the “Myrtle Beach Family Golf Family Zone,” a season ticket package that includes four passes to all of the home games in a special section of Brooks Stadium. The section has been tailor-made for families. There is a designated seating area and activities set up behind the bleachers to entertain the little ones in case they get restless. With the same families returning game after game, often the children and the parents become friends.

“The package was created to bridge the gap between individual game purchases for families and fans with season tickets,” says Kevin Olivett, athletics’ associate director for marketing, promotions and social media. “And, at $110 for the whole deal, it’s a value for families who get six fun-filled Saturdays cheering on the Chanticleers.”

Hunter Yurachek, CCU’s director of athletics, calls the package “affordable family fun. That’s $27.50 per game for the whole family. It would be hard to do any other entertainment option in Myrtle Beach for that price,” Yurachek says.

Charles King and his family have no real connection to CCU. His job at Bluegreen Resorts recently brought him, his wife and their 7-year-old son from Texas to the Grand Strand. They bought season tickets to the family zone. “This deal is amazing. We come early and tailgate,” he says. “It’s a great school, and the team is having a great year. I played college ball, and I love to support local schools.”

Also new is CCU Family Zone on Blanton Lawn. It’s an opportunity for families to come out early and enjoy music and family fun before the game. “It is an easy walk for any family tailgating on campus. There are inflatable games, miniature golf and lots of grass area for future Chants to show off their football and cheerleading skills,” says Olivett.

“Setting kickoffs for 6 p.m. on Saturdays is a decision directed at families,” says Yurachek. “Saturdays are usually busy with kids’ sports and families running around. Setting game time at 6 p.m. allows them to get everything done before they come out and enjoy the game, plus it helps beat the heat.”

“It’s an awesome time,” says Michelle Leonard, whose son Curtis is a sophomore in CCU’s Scholars Academy. “We wanted to get more involved with the school as a family. The seats are good, and the package comes with four tickets, so we usually invite one of my son’s friends. It’s just a fun time.”

But the Myrtle Beach Family Golf Family Zone is just one way for families to get involved with CCU sports. There’s also Chauncey’s Kids Club. Membership is $25 a year and participants get a T-shirt, free admission to one football and one men’s basketball game as well as free admission to every women's softball and basketball game. Kid’s Club members also get a birthday card from Chauncey and the athletic e-newsletter.

Each of the Chanticleer home games also has a theme that families can enjoy. So far this year, game days have included High School Band Day and Family Weekend. Upcoming games will have Faith and Family Day, a cheerleading clinic, Homecoming (including the annual Athletic Hall of Fame induction), Senior and Youth Day, and Heroes Day, which recognizes first-responders and the military.

And on Friday, Oct. 25, CCU is hosting its inaugural Chauncey’s Night 5K. “Everyone is invited to take the 5K up and run with it,” says Olivett. “Families can come enjoy the festivities and run around the campus at night while wearing a glowing T-shirt. The registration packet gets you the glowing shirt and a ticket to the VMI game the following day, so you can make it a weekend on the CCU campus.”

Yurachek says, “We attracted more than 8,600 for the Furman game. Between 2,700 and 2,800 of those were season ticket holders. But we want our 9,200 capacity every game. And the way the team is playing this year, we should. This could be the best team we’ve ever had.”

This “capacity” was reached and exceeded when the team took on the Pirates of Hampton University during CCU’s Family Weekend on Sept. 21, marking Brooks Stadium’s second-largest crowd ever with 9,386 cheering fans.

Steven Little was at that game. He drove in from Sumter with his wife and kids to spend the weekend with his daughter, a freshman at CCU. “They are an exciting team,” Little says as he watches the Chanticleers march down the field on offense. “The school is in a great location, and this is a great stadium.”

CCU senior running back Lorenzo Taliaferro dives in the end zone for another Chanticleer touchdown, and Little says, “I’ll definitely be coming back for more games.”

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