Like the USC Beaufort baseball team of a year ago, the ninth-ranked Sand Sharks softball team is hoping to punch its ticket to the NAIA National Championship by staying at home. And in doing so, the school is again spending money to save money.
USC Beaufort was selected April 23 as one of 10 sites for the NAIA National Championship Opening Round, which runs Monday through Wednesday. The winner of the double-elimination tournament will advance to the NAIA National Championship May 24 to May 30 in Columbus, Ga.
USC Beaufort won its bid to host a baseball Opening Round last year, and the Sand Sharks won five straight games to advance to the NAIA World Series.
According to athletics business manager Genia Montford, USCB submitted a bid of $10,000 to be a host site for the softball Opening Round, with the minimum bid being $6,000. In comparison, the school's bid for the baseball Opening Round in 2012 was $15,500, with the minimum being $10,000.
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"If our team had to travel to an Opening Round site, we could expect to pay around $16,000 to $17,000 in expenses," Montford said. "While the NAIA makes an effort to assign a team to a Opening Round site close in proximity, that is not a guarantee, meaning the travel estimates could easily double due to site assignment."
According to Montford, the bid will be offset with sponsorships, gate receipts, program and merchandise sales.
"Now that we have hosted once for baseball," Montford said, "we feel we have a better estimate of what to expect in regards to sales and attendance and have adjusted our business plan accordingly."
Like last year, the bid is a collaboration with the town of Hardeeville.
"It was great last year. The tournament brought a lot of people to the city," Hardeevillle director of parks and recreation Adison Jarrell said. "We like partnering with USCB. There was no hestitation this year."
Jarrell said the city is responsible for maintenance of the Richard Gray Sports Complex aside from the softball field itself, which the school contracts out. The city will also handle and get the profits from concessions.
"We don't do terribly, but we probably won't recoup all of our money," Jarrell said. "But that's not why we do it. We do it for the city as a whole, and our hotels, restaraunts and other businesses will more than recoup that money."
"Last year was a great experience for our student-athletes, for our institution, and for the region," Montford wrote in her presentation to the USC Beaufort administrative council. "We are excited about keeping our dollars local, bringing teams and their fans to the Lowcountry and providing a positive economic impact for the region."
USCB softball coach Ty Rietkovich praised chancellor Jane Upshaw and the adminitrative council for supporting the effort and athletics director Quin Monahan and Montford for putting together a "sensational" bid. He also praised coach Bryan Lewallyn and the baseball program.
"The job they did in the opening round last year made it possible to get the Opening Round this year," Rietkovich said. "Getting the first one is the hardest part."