Clarification: A university spokeswoman initially declined to comment for this story. She has since provided a statement and the story has been updated.
After Coastal Carolina’s thrilling win over Troy last week, coach Jamey Chadwell suggested a way to encourage more students to show up to Thursday's game — the Chanticleers' first nationally televised contest as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
“Maybe DeCenzo will cancel classes,” Chadwell said, referring to the university's president.
Well, Coastal didn’t technically cancel classes on Thursday, but school officials shifted those classes online.
Late Monday afternoon, Coastal Carolina President David DeCenzo sent a mass email to CCU students, faculty and staff addressing the “historic milestone” for Coastal.
“In evaluating the options for campus operations for a weekday home football game, we have taken time to review the best practices used by other South Carolina colleges and universities. Based on this review and taking the lead from those partners, I am asking our faculty to redirect classes beginning at or after 1:30pm on Thursday to the online environment.”
The email went on to say that DeCenzo has asked the Coastal’s provost to “create a make-up schedule for those affected course sections should faculty wish to request in-person make-up time.”
A university spokeswoman initially declined to comment on the schedule changes. She later provided a prepared statement that indicated the changes were made for safety concerns, not to encourage greater fan support.
"Coastal Carolina University encourages its students, faculty, and staff to be involved and active in all areas of the university, from academics to extracurricular activities, as part of the holistic education process," spokeswoman Caroline Rohr said in an email. "This is in line with the university’s mission to create a diverse and dynamic student-centered learning environment. By redirecting those classes that meet after 1:30 on Thursday to an online environment, the University is facilitating campus safety with respect to the movement of personal and vehicular traffic and based on best practice recommendations from other South Carolina universities."
Despite the university's statement, the announcement came after many students left last Saturday’s game early and did not witness the late come-from-behind finish in CCU’s 36-35 win.
Early departures and low student attendance has been an issue at CCU football games, even before the Chants made the jump to the Sun Belt.
“I know that’s what we have always done and that always seems like the cool thing to do, but the truth is it’s not,” Chadwell said at his post-game news conference Saturday. “This is a good league with good players, coaches and programs. They’re missing out on a high level of football.”
Thursday night's game against Louisiana-Lafayette will be the second-ever Thursday night game at Brooks Stadium.
The last time was on Nov. 17, 2016 when Coastal beat Liberty 42-7 in front of a crowd of 7,719. Despite being a large crowd for a Thursday night, that was not a sellout.
Chadwell has said that he hoped a change in class schedule and the national television exposure would bring out fans, and he wants them to stay until the clock hits triple zeros.
“I hope we can fill it up,” he said. “Let’s have a big party at Brooks Stadium on Thursday night.”
Kickoff between the Ragin’ Cajuns and the Chanticleers is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU.