published Friday, February 1st, 2013

Membership talks 'very good' at SoCon meetings

  • photo
    Southern Conference Commissioner John Iamarino.
    Staff File Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press

During two days of "open" and "positive" talks in Charlotte, N.C., this week, the Southern Conference athletic directors went over the league's membership options backward and forward. They were good meetings, SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said, but did not yield a consensus on how the league should proceed.

The College of Charleston is leaving for the Colonial Athletic Association after this academic year, and Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are headed to Football Bowl Subdivision conferences as soon as they get offers they like.

The SoCon can look to add one or more teams now or it can wait to see what happens with teams both inside and outside the league as the NCAA Division I conference shuffle continues.

"There are supporters in both camps as to do we take a step now, regardless of what happens with App State and Georgia Southern, or do we wait to see how more of the sands wind up shifting?" Iamarino said after the meetings ended Wednesday.

While not disappointed, Iamarino said he was "kind of hoping that there might be more of a consensus position that could then go forward to the [SoCon] presidents."

The diversity (geographical, public vs. private, academic and athletic) within the league, he said, leads to a variety of perspectives on how to proceed.

"The discussions were very good, very open, and as you look at all the facets of this puzzle, there are no real easy answers," he said, adding that there was a positive tone to the discussions that had not been present at recent meetings.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga interim athletic director Laura Herron is in the camp of moving forward with bringing in new schools. She said the SoCon can't afford to wait on what App State and Georgia Southern do.

"If you don't [act], you leave yourself open to other conferences coming in and poaching because it will look like the Southern Conference isn't stable and is losing members," she said. "I'm for being proactive and going ahead."

While he wouldn't discuss specific schools that the SoCon is interested in, or are interested in the SoCon, Iamarino said the league has numerous options.

"We are in a good position because we suspect there are a good number of institutions that would help us in a number of ways, that do have interest, that have quietly expressed interest to me, and that would be receptive to a conversation," he said. "We do have some attractive options, I think, and at the right time we're going to exercise those options."

When that time will be, Iamarino couldn't say. The 11 remaining member institutions have to determine a direction for the league and until then, "we'll keep trying to move the ball down the field."

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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