Andy Solomon Ranks His Favorite Southern Conference Locations

The Southern Conference's school locale map for the 2013-14 season. The map will change quite a bit next season with the addition of VMI, East Tennessee State and Mercer and the departures of Georgia Southern, Elon and Appalachian State. The College of Charleston officially left the SoCon on July 1 to compete in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The Southern Conference’s school locale map for the 2013-14 year. The map will change quite a bit next season with the addition of VMI, East Tennessee State and Mercer and the departures of Georgia Southern, Elon and Appalachian State. The College of Charleston officially left the SoCon on July 1 to compete in the Colonial Athletic Association.

During my two-plus decades at The Citadel, I’ve journeyed across the Southern Conference “footprint” and have come to enjoy many of the destinations.  Now, granted, I haven’t traveled as much as the “other Andy” (Clawson) or even Mike Groshon (and the live mascots), but I’ve done my share and more than most.

A beautiful mountain view, such as this one, can be seen from the campus of Western Carolina in Cullowhee, N.C.

A beautiful mountain view, such as this one, can be seen from the campus of Western Carolina in Cullowhee, N.C.

We know that Charleston is the top target city in the land and, thus, will not include my hometown in this personal poll.  However, with the on-going adjustments with regard to membership in the league, here then are my top SoCon cities – current and future – and remember, while you have your opinion, this is mine:

  1. Cullowhee, NC (Western Carolina):  Hailing from the Lowcountry, I thoroughly enjoy the mountains and the breathtaking scenery that Cullowhee and the neighboring areas provide.  I’ve vacationed there many times, my wife is from the region and, further, I enjoy my limited gambling skills at Harrah’s. The Pancake House in Sylva is among my favorites.
  2. Boone, NC (Appalachian State):  Again, the mountains provide me with a lot of time for reflection and Boone is a nice town outside the college community. There’s a little, old-time general store in nearby Todd that everyone should experience, especially when they have live (pickin’ and grinnin’) music from the locals on Friday nights.
  3. Lexington, VA (VMI): The Shenandoah Valley is spectacular and as a student of history, I could visit the VMI Museum and Gen. George Marshall Museum every year.  Seeing Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s coat with the bullet hole in it continues to be among my favorite sites.  Also, the ice cream shop at the top of the hill near campus is a must and walking VMI’s campus really makes me appreciate ours.
  4. Greenville, SC (Furman): An underrated city, Greenville is the Piedmont and the Piedmont is Greenville. The view of Paris Mountain from the Paladins’ football press box is spectacular.  I also got married in Greenville (and those memories are indeed positive).
  5. Chattanooga, TN (UT-Chattanooga): Another underrated city with good facilities, Chattanooga has a lot to offer including the Choo-Choo, the Aquarium, terrific restaurants and much, much more.  I remember touring the Chickamauga (Civil War) Battlegrounds with former Athletics Director Walt Nadzak, whom I should have left at the motel.
  6. Statesboro, GA (Georgia Southern): Ah, down home Statesboro.  Home of the Statesboro Blues (Allman Brothers Band song) and Beautiful Eagle Creek (where one can step across it, assuming one can find it), there are many rabid fans and they all come out to see their Eagles. Best part of going to Statesboro (other than it being the closest rival, geographically speaking) is the return stop in Savannah.
  7. Spartanburg, SC (Wofford): Believe it or not, I am fond of Spartanburg although I’ve listed it toward the bottom.  It has its own distinctions – excluding The Beacon – and is a big small town.  I lived there for a brief spell, and will admit that I liked it.
  8. Johnson City, TN (East Tennessee State): The tri-city area of Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport is indeed very nice, and again, I adore the mountains and the folks there love their sports (too bad the Southern Conference doesn’t have a NASCAR team).  Personally, I can’t stand the Mini-Dome but like the area.
  9. Davidson, NC (Davidson): OK, let’s be honest:  Davidson is North Charlotte.  And let’s remember that Charlotte is a major league city.  I lived in Rock Hill for six years, and ventured into Charlotte quite a bit.  Charlotte is truly a great city, but the traffic is unreal.  However, the Davidson community is supportive, kind and very intelligent.
  10. Elon, NC (Elon): Somewhat of a border town to Greensboro, which has the ability to be a charming area, but I can’t say that I really like Greensboro.
  11. Greensboro, NC (UNC-Greensboro):  I’ve listed them last for multiple reasons.  But Mom always said that if I can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  I listen to my mother.
  12. *Macon, GA (Mercer): I haven’t been to Macon in more than 35 years, but understand that it is a nice place.  I look forward to returning there in the future.
  13. *Birmingham, AL (Samford): I’ve never been there, but a steel city in Alabama doesn’t really appeal to me, although I’m certain there are some nice spots.  However, I have friends that live there and are very happy.  Further, I’m glad they come to Charleston so I can see them.

*Haven’t yet been there for a SoCon contest.

Gen. Stonewall Jackson stands tall in front of the VMI Museum in Lexington, Va.

Gen. Stonewall Jackson stands tall in front of the VMI Museum in Lexington, Va.

– Andy Solomon –

Associate Athletics Director

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