SoCon meetings to discuss members' status

SoCon meetings to discuss members' status

May 30th, 2012 by John Frierson in Sports - College

Rick Hart, athletic director at UTC.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino has spent weeks talking about what will be discussed at the league's spring meetings. The hot topics are the status of the 12 schools in the league and what to do if any of them leave. Now it's time for those discussions to begin.

"These meetings have kind of loomed in the headlights for a long time, and in a way it's a relief to finally get to head up there and start talking," Iamarino said.

The meetings begin today in Asheville, N.C. Attending will be the league's presidents and athletic directors, along with coaches for the sport-specific meetings. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga AD Rick Hart is missing the Mocs men's golf team's appearance in the NCAA championship tournament for the meetings.

Unlike so many other Division I conferences that have dealt with member turnover during the past couple of years, the SoCon has maintained its 12 members. For now.

Appalachian State is trying to move up to a Football Bowl Subdivision conference, and Georgia Southern has announced that it would like to move up in the next decade. Meanwhile, following the loss of a couple of schools, the Colonial Athletic Association has reportedly shown interest in SoCon schools Davidson and the College of Charleston.

"I think you have to continue to run certain scenarios and proactively talk about what those might be, as well as get each school's thoughts in terms of where they are today and what can be done to stabilize and strengthen the situation," Hart said. "It's just so hard to anticipate every scenario."

One question Iamarino wants answered is "what specifically they want out of their affiliation" with the league.

"And hopefully we're able to show that we're providing those things," he said. "And if we're not, see if there are areas that we can improve on. ... Nobody's been critical of the Southern Conference, so we'll approach it as looking for ways to strengthen the affiliation and the bond of these 12 programs."

While membership issues will get the most attention, there is other business to attend to this week. One issue is the men's basketball schedule and whether teams should continue playing 18 league games or switch it to 16.

"We haven't had those discussions in about four years, and since we've got some new coaches it's probably about time to look at it," Iamarino said.

Also up for discussion, he said, is whether the SoCon should keep its North and South divisions or lump everyone in together.

"I think that will be an interesting discussion, but I'm not sure what the outcome will be," he said.

The SoCon has an agreement to televise league games on ESPN3.com, but it hasn't locked up a television deal for 2012-13. SoCon games were shown on public television stations last season (and a local Alabama station).

Iamarino said that unless SoCon games can be shown statewide in its five-state footprint -- only Tennessee and Alabama aren't statewide -- then the league likely won't continue working with PBS stations.

"If we're going to make the public television model work," he said, "we've got to be statewide in all five states."

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.