College football and pre-game tailgating are autumn rituals in the South, and the Grand Strand is home to one of the best small-school experiences you can find. Coastal Carolina University, located in Conway about 15 miles away from Myrtle Beach’s Long Bay Resort, offers all the football, fun and fanfare of a major college program without all the traffic jams and big crowds.
For football fans, there's the chance to root for the Chanticleers, who have consistently been ranked among the top teams in the FCS for the past five years and are currently in the process of moving up to the FCS, college football’s highest level. For non-football fans, there's the food and fun of the tailgate parties, the marching band and the cheerleaders, as well as the festive atmosphere of Brooks Stadium.
On eight Saturdays this fall, the Chants will host a mix of old rivals from their former Big South Conference and new ones as they make the transition to the Sun Belt Conference. It's all part of the rapid progression of the program since CCU added football in 2003 only to graduate to the highest level of the college ranks beginning in the fall of 2017. That makes this a pivotal season as the Chants hope to increase their average attendance of about 10,000 per game to warrant a future stadium expansion.
That's good news for fans who want to catch the small-college experience before it hits the big time. Coastal Carolina's charming campus, located in the nearby town of Conway, contains plenty of live oak trees offering shade for tailgate parties and cornhole tournaments. Local culinary favorites like chicken bog and Lowcountry boil, a steam pot filled with local shrimp and crabs, corn on the cob, smoked sausage and new potatoes, are served and shared among friends, family and fans before the game.
But when the marching band leads the crowd to the stadium gates and you hear the crow of the rooster (yes, first-time fans, a Chanticleer is a mighty rooster from the works of Geoffrey Chaucer), it's time to head to the stadium, where there isn't a bad seat in the house. Coached by former TD Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia, the Chants put a great product on the field and host a good time off the gridiron. Mascot Chauncey, a state-of-the-art Jumbotron and halftime entertainment are all part of the experience.
The excitement level is at an all-time high at this public university with a growing enrollment of 12,000. The baseball team made a giant splash on the national sports scene this year by winning the College World Series and defeating powerhouse programs like Florida, LSU and Arizona along the way. CCU alum and PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson also made headlines by winning his first major at the U.S. Open, and fellow grad Amber Campbell became the highest-placing American woman in the hammer throw at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Now it's time for the football team to perform a worthy encore, beginning with the Sept. 10 home opener against Florida A&M. The 7 p.m. kickoff ensures a fired-up crowd and cooler temperatures under the Saturday night lights. Other home games feature Furman (Sept. 24, 6 p.m.), Charleston Southern (Oct. 1, 6 p.m.), Central Connecticut State (Oct. 22, 2 p.m.), Monmouth (Nov. 5, 2 p.m.), Bryant (Nov. 12, 2 p.m.), Liberty (Nov. 17, 7 p.m.) and Hampton (Nov. 26, 2 p.m.). Game times are subject to change based on TV scheduling. For ticket information, visit www.goccusports.com.
After a fun night at the football game, make the short trip back to your vacation home away from home at Long Bay Resort. Whether you are visiting Myrtle Beach for a fall getaway on the beach or a big game on the gridiron, we look forward to you staying and playing with us at Long Bay.