College of Charleston is now a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
As of Monday, July 1, the College of Charleston joins an athletic conference with schools that stretch from Massachusetts to South Carolina in some of the nation's biggest metropolitan areas of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
Since the school's athletic program earned NCAA Division I status in 1991, the Cougars have ever striven to compete at a higher level, both athletically and academically.
After enjoying NCAA postseason success in men's basketball in the Trans America Athletic Conference, a number of other sports exploded in national reputation during the College of Charleston's tenure in the Southern Conference which began in 1998.
Men's basketball has made four NCAA Tournament appearances, baseball five NCAA regional appearances including a Super Regional in 2006, volleyball seven NCAA appearances, women's tennis six NCAA appearances, men's soccer five NCAA appearances, women's golf four NCAA regional appearances, men's golf three NCAA regional appearances including a national championship berth in 2001, men's tennis two NCAA appearances, and softball an NCAA regional in 2005.
The Cougars have also had several NCAA individual qualifiers in women's cross country, women's track and field, men's and women's golf and men's and women's tennis. Men's and women's swimming & diving will enter the CAA after a successful stint in the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association, and CofC will continue its national success in non-CAA sponsored sports like co-ed and women's sailing, sand volleyball and equestrian.
On July 1, 2013, College of Charleston enters the CAA with the same ambitions and drive that motivated institutional changes in 1991, 1998 and today.
The Colonial Athletic Association is an athletic conference that will compete with nine full-time members in 2013-14, with at least one more in Elon joining in 2014-15. UNC Wilmington, William & Mary, James Madison, Towson, Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra and Northeastern hold the banner high of a conference that stretches the length of the east coast for schools with strong academic and athletic legacies.
The CAA has boasted multiple NCAA Tournament at-large bids in men's basketball, women's basketball, men's soccer, women's soccer, baseball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis. The majority of College of Charleston teams will now have an opportunity to make the postseason after a strong regular season, even if a loss in the conference tournament occurs.
The Colonial Athletic Association currently holds a television contract with NBC Sports that in 2013-14 produced 24 national telecasts on NBC Sports Network and 29 additional games on various Comcast SportsNets and additional CAA television affiliates in men's basketball alone.
"It is really exciting for me to return to the CAA as a head coach," men's basketball coach Doug Wojcik said. "Tom Yeager, the Commissioner of the CAA, is the original commissioner from the time we won the Colonial championships in basketball at my alma mater, Navy. I have nothing but fond memories of the Colonial and I am looking forward to the future. We will be on television in a national market with the NBC Sports Network, which is a real positive and helps our exposure."
CofC men's basketball won 24 games under Wojcik in his first season as head coach and advanced to the conference championship game against Davidson, a team bound for the Atlantic 10 conference. Wojcik led the Cougars to just the second program road win over a ranked team with a 63-59 victory over Baylor on Nov. 25. With a core nucleus returning, including the Southern Conference's top rebounder in Adjehi Baru, there's no wonder that Joe Lunardi picked College of Charleston as the CAA champion in his projected 2014 NCAA Tournament field.
The CAA has a strong men's basketball tradition, posting a 14-12 record in the NCAA Tournament with two teams making the Final Four since 2006. The league has won an NCAA first-round game in each of the last four seasons and six of the past eight.
In 2013, the Colonial was represented by three teams in the NCAA Baseball Tournament, and the league boasted the country's eighth-best baseball RPI. For the first time, seven teams won 30 or more games, while each postseason team won at least one game in their respective regional.
College of Charleston baseball has enjoyed immense success in the past decade, posting the country's 15th-best winning percentage as a program. The Cougars have participated in five NCAA regionals, while head coach Monte Lee has tutored nine All-Americans in the past five seasons. With 2013 senior Jake Zokan getting drafted in the ninth round by the Mariners, CofC has had four straight seasons, and eight in the last 11, where a Cougar player was drafted in the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft.
"The exposure of the CAA and its television contract will help put our baseball program in more homes through the NBC Sports Network each spring," Lee said. "While we will continue to fight for the best baseball players in South Carolina and the Southeast, we now have the opportunity to attract some of the best baseball players in the Northeast and offer them a chance to play in warm-weather conditions against some of the best teams in the country."
Last season, College of Charleston men's soccer knocked off nationally-ranked Stanford and Dayton in a single home weekend. The Cougars have become a national brand under head coach Ralph Lundy with players coming to Charleston from all over the globe. The CAA has sported three or more men's soccer teams in the NCAA Tournament in five of the last nine years.
"The initial transition is going to be a challenging and exciting process," Lundy said. "In men's soccer, this is going to be a very tough, competitive league. Last year, three teams from the Colonial went to the NCAA Tournament. The geographic area of the Colonial is loaded with talented student-athletes. It will undoubtedly enhance not only our athletic recruiting, but also the recruiting for our great institution. This will also allow our current students and graduates a better chance to get recruited towards exciting opportunities and challenges after their time at the College."
In 2012-13, new women's basketball coach Natasha Adair brought a new attitude and competitiveness to CofC women's basketball. With the same roster, she doubled the Cougars' win total and helped CofC win a postseason game in the Women's Basketball Invitational. Her task will take on a new level in the CAA where conference champion Delaware advanced to the Sweet 16 with first team All-American Elena Delle Donne.
"Our women's basketball program will benefit greatly, because of the national respect the women's basketball world has for the CAA," Adair said. "The CAA is a two-to-three bid league with one of the highest RPIs for any non-BCS conference. The CAA will and has already peaked interest for the College of Charleston from some of the nation's top women's basketball recruits."
Leaving the Southern Conference as its most successful volleyball program in history, the Cougars will look to continue that success on the CAA stage. Charleston has won 12-straight regular season or conference tournament championships, a streak that ranks second in all of Division I volleyball. CofC's winning percentage over the last decade ranks eighth in the nation, while the Cougars advanced to the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament after an upset of No. 23-ranked Miami.
"We enjoyed unparalleled success in the Southern Conference as a volleyball program and we look to continue that tradition in a very strong Colonial league," volleyball head coach Jason Kepner said. "Our recruiting base has reached from coast-to-coast for a number of years now, and the announcement of our transition has already spiked interest in some of the major volleyball hotbeds of the Northeast. We are also excited to get to travel to some new parts of the country and give our student-athletes some unique experiences."
The first official CAA competition will commence the weekend of Sept. 27, 2013, with conference play for women's soccer against Northeastern on Sept. 27 and men's soccer versus UNC Wilmington on Sept. 28 at the Patriots Point Soccer Complex in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Volleyball will also travel for its league opener at Northeastern on Sept. 27 in Boston, Mass.
Season tickets for men's and women's soccer are available and can be purchased online at CofCSports.com.
The fall CAA championships will be held at the home of the conference champion. College of Charleston is slated to host the 2015 and 2016 CAA baseball championships, while this year's men's basketball tournament will be held at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore.