GARY EDWARDS: The coaching career joins Sports News


This afternoon, the Francis Marion University men’s basketball team will play their last game of the 2021 season. We were able to squeeze into 14 games, while many in our conference played far less or ended their season completely.

I take pride in our players for their resilience. It would have been easier for them to opt out (the new term for “cancel”), but they never did, and I’m proud and grateful for that.

Today’s game at Smith University Center against Flagler College will also be our final men’s basketball competition as a member of the Peach Belt Conference. The Patriots are moving to the Carolinas Conference next season.

The peach belt was founded in 1989 and started playing in the fall of 1990. The seven founding members of the conference were Armstrong Atlantic, Columbus State, Georgia College, Lander, USC Aiken, USC Upstate, and Francis Marion.

With numerous changes in membership, Francis Marion has been a constant for 30 years. But lately the peach belt has moved geographically and philosophically away from Francis Marion.

There are now seven Georgia schools in the conference that want to add more. To use a political phrase, we haven’t left the peach belt, the peach belt has left us.

The Patriots will be moving to the Carolinas Conference and I personally feel that my coaching career has closed. My first position as head coach was at conference member Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College).