SoCon set to 'get specific' on additions

SoCon set to 'get specific' on additions

January 29th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sportscollege

Southern Conference Commissioner John Iamarino.

Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino said it's time for the league to get "specific" and "make some decisions" about possible new members.

Iamarino and the SoCon's athletic directors are meeting today and Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. It will be their first get-together since the College of Charleston announced in late November that it was leaving to join the Colonial Athletic Association.

"I think we're going to really get specific about potential expansion candidates," Iamarino said. "I need to hear from this group what their thoughts are -- who we're looking for, what the right number should be, are we ready to expand or do we need more time to sift things through?

"We've reached the point where we have to make some decisions, so I hope we'll start that process with the athletic directors."

Iamarino told the Times Free Press in December that the league would not be adding any schools for the 2013-14 school year.

Along with finding a replacement for the Cougars, the SoCon likely soon will have to find schools to replace Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, who continue to seek spots in a Football Bowl Subdivision conference. Both schools are often mentioned as possible additions to the Sun Belt.

Iamarino said the SoCon doesn't have to wait for another member to leave before acting.

"I do think we need to say, "OK, if X, Y and Z moves are in our best interest, long term, then I think we need to look at them regardless of the situation with App State and Georgia Southern," he said.

One possible addition to the SoCon could be a former member, East Tennessee State. The Buccaneers left the league 2005 after dropping their football program and joined the non-football Atlantic Sun Conference. ETSU president Brian Noland has spoken often of his desire to bring football back, and the school's Student Government Association will vote today on whether to support restarting the program.

A decision on ETSU football is expected to be made in the next few weeks.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga interim athletic director Laura Herron said she would strongly support the return of the Mocs' longtime rivals.

"I would love to see them back in the SoCon," she said. "They were a great natural rival for us. ... We loved to hate ETSU, and I'm sure they felt the same way."

Because of Charleston's departure after this academic year, the SoCon has had to put together new schedules for 2013-14 in most sports. Those will be approved at the meetings, Iamarino said.

The SoCon officials also will spend time talking about the league's telecast deal and whether or not changes need to be made. Last May the SoCon announced an enhanced three-year agreement with ESPN3.com.

"We have been approached by a network or two, and I want to talk [with the ADs] about whether we would be willing to compromise in order to perhaps pursue a network package," Iamarino said.

One reason the SoCon parted ways with Fox SportSouth several years ago was the flex scheduling, which led to a lack of consistent starting times for football games.

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