How Can the Big South Can Increase Northeast Fan Interest

Bryant and Robert Morris have few matchups to be excited about in the Big South-OVC, so why not make one of those games a vacation?

Bryant and Robert Morris are the Big South-OVC Alliance's only Northeast members
Source: Jim Killian/CSU Athletics

Charleston is one of the South’s most beautiful cities and has long been a vacation spot for snowbirds looking to escape the cold of the Northeast. On two separate occasions, the city tried to take advantage of this by applying to host bowl games, proposing the Palmetto Bowl in 2005 and the Medal of Honor Bowl in 2015. Both attempts failed and the city instead settled for an all-star game in 2013 and 2014.

Now, Charleston can boost its tourism industry thanks to some wild turns in conference realignment. Despite being called the Big South, two of the conference’s football-only members are in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. Robert Morris joined the conference for football in 2020 after departing the Northeast Conference (NEC) for the Horizon League, while Bryant joined for football in 2022 after also leaving the NEC for America East.

Naturally, it’s hard for Robert Morris fans and Bryant fans to be excited about games in the OVC-Big South alliance due to the vast geography of the partnership. Both schools traded regional rivals for games with Eastern Illinois and Lindenwood. However, the Big South and OVC can make the most of this bleak situation by taking advantage of its two most favorable locations in terms of weather.

The Big South and OVC should give each school two permanent matchups per year and in the process have Bryant and Robert Morris play either Charleston Southern or Gardner-Webb every year as one of their permanent matchups. The alliance should mandate that the matchups Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb host against Robert Morris or Bryant be played in November to encourage fans of the two schools to visit.

This idea finds inspiration in the origin of bowls, which served as excuses for tourists from the Northeast and other cold environments to leave their homes for warmer weather in the Winter. While the weather in Smithfield, Rhode Island, and Moon Township, PA is not horrible, I am sure Bryant and Robert Morris fans would love an excuse to get away from the cold and experience Charleston, South Carolina or Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Increasing fan involvement could make Robert Morris and Bryant less likely to leave Big South. Of course, travel would be a problem with this arrangement, but the OVC-Big South Alliance is full of far trips for the Bulldogs and Colonials. The alliance might as well make these trips worthwhile for alumni, students, and players. In the end, the OVC-Big South Alliance needs to get back to the heart of bowl games to increase Bryant and Robert Morris’ satisfaction.