published Thursday, May 30th, 2013

SoCon looks set to add three: League expected to invite Mercer, East Tennessee State and Virginia Military Institute

Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino is optimistic that his battered league, which has seen five of 12 members announced their plans to move elsewhere, will approve bringing in three new members today.

"I'm not anticipating any surprises," Iamarino said of Mercer, East Tennessee State and the Virginia Military Institute being offered a spot in the SoCon.

Today is the third day of the SoCon spring meetings in Hilton Head, S.C., and at 8 a.m. the executive committee will meet to discuss, among other things, new membership. At 11, the council of presidents meets and will vote on the executive committee's recommendation.

Iamarino said the league could have an announcement today, though no representatives from ETSU, VMI or Mercer will be in Hilton Head.

Among the other matters still to be voted on are what to do with the schools that are leaving the league: Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Elon and Davidson (College of Charleston is already gone).

When it comes to whether or not the schools eligible to win regular-season titles or play in SoCon championships will be allowed to do so, Iamarino said there "is no doubt" they will be able to participate.

"I won't say it's unanimous," he said, "but clearly the overwhelming feeling of the group is all of the student-athletes from the schools that are leaving should have the opportunity to compete in the conference tournament."

App State and Georgia Southern will not be eligible for the football championships because they are adding scholarships in preparation for their move up to the Sun Belt Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Several departing schools were scheduled to host SoCon tournaments in 2013-14 and the location of those events must be decided, as well.

"There's really kind of a split opinion on that, though I think there's a slight majority that favors moving the championships to an institution that wants to be in the conference," Iamarino said.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn said last week he favored not allowing departing schools to host championships.

Iamarino said much of the discussion Wednesday was on how to make the SoCon better. The athletic directors, senior woman administrators and faculty representatives all met as groups, and later as a collective, to discuss television, branding, marketing and other areas.

With $3 million coming into the league from exit fees, the SoCon will be able to make some investments in its future.

"There's great interest in stabilizing the conference, showing that we're going to be just fine, that we're moving forward, and that was the overall attitude that came out today," Iamarino said. "While we've not finalized anything, one of the last comments before we adjourned was that it's always good to have a wish list."

Iamarino said it will also be good to talk about adding teams to the league after so much conversation in the past six months about the schools that are leaving.

Contact John Frierson at or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at

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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