Movin' On Up

Just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of attending the press conference at which UNCG announced its intentions to raise the profile of its men's basketball program, starting with a move from the on-campus Fleming Gym to the Greensboro Coliseum and the aggressive scheduling of high-caliber opponents from the ACC and other conferences who share our state, including the A-10, C-USA, and CAA. This is part of a plan from the new chancellor, who believes that raising the University's athletic profile goes hand in hand with raising its profile overall.

Regarding this move, I feel both cautiously optimistic and proud that UNCG dares to be great.
Interestingly enough, I recall a similar feeling about four years ago, as I attended a pep rally in the Marshall Center's ballroom at USF at which it was announced that USF would be making the move to the Big East sarting with the Fall 2005 semester. In the 3 1/2 years that followed, USF is the proud owner of 3 conference championships and has been in contention for others. While we're admittedly drowning in the depth of the conference basketball-wise, by and large we're holding our own, and the amount of times you'll hear from and see us in national sports media have increased quite a bit from our Conference USA days.

So what does this move mean for UNCG? For starters, we'll move from the pit that is Fleming Gym into one of the premier sports entertainment complexes in the Southeastern US. Believe it or not, however, my referring to Fleming as a pit is actually a term of endearment. Fleming seats just shy of 2,500, and with its steep seating and below-grade playing surface, that place can get rocking when packed out. In contrast, the Coliseum, in the manner it will be arranged for UNCG home games, will seat about 7,500, meaning that for larger games it could be at best a neutral court and at worst a hostile environment for the home team. In fact, the Coliseum won't be a strange land to some more prominent teams and their fans; it has served as a regular host for NCAA Tournament action and the ACC Tournament. And, of course, since the ACC is the primary basketball currency here in NC, you can expect plenty of fans present when we play them.

The Coliseum sits about 8/10 mile from Fleming Gym (driving--less if you're on foot and cut across campus) and about half that distance from the closest UNCG residences. It's worth noting that this is less than the distance to the Dean Dome from parts of Carolina's campus, and less than that to the RBC Center from parts of NC State's. The Coliseum, which will have its first viable home tenant since the ECHL's Greensboro Generals left in 2004, is committed to truly making this the Spartans' home court, with a UNCG hardwood court, navy blue seating, and state-of-the-art locker rooms, all of which were also unveiled at the press conference. There's been a visibly increased presence of billboard and television advertising here in Greensboro, which will be crucial in ensuring perhaps the most important part of this equation: community support. With that, there'll be no question that Spartan basketball is on the rise.