Departures signal changes for the league that is the longtime home of the Mocs

Departures signal changes for the league that is the longtime home of the Mocs

May 9th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sports - College

UTC defensive linesman Joshua Williams makes a block during a game against Appalachian State.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

On the same day that Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino was in Lexington, Va., for a site visit to the Virginia Military Institute, a possible addition to the league, Davidson made its future departure official.

Davidson announced Wednesday morning that it was heading to the Atlantic 10 Conference starting in 2014-15.

"Our sentimental ties with the Southern Conference were very difficult to sever," Davidson athletic director Jim Murphy said during a news conference.

Last week, the SoCon's presidents and chancellors voted to take visits to VMI, Mercer and East Tennessee State -- effectively making them the three finalists to replace the already-departing College of Charleston, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State.

Iamarino said Wednesday night that the remaining eight members of the SoCon will discuss what happens next during the spring meetings at the end of the month in Hilton Head, S.C.

"I'm sure that we will spend good time there reassessing where we are, the steps that we've taken with the visits and then evaluate what the next steps may be," he said in a phone interview.

As of now, Iamarino said, Davidson will be eligible for SoCon championships next season, as Charleston was this year. Current regulations allow them to participate, he said, though that could be another meeting topic.

"I suspect we will have conversations about how we handle institutions that are serving their final year with us," he said.

The A-10, which sends multiple teams to the NCAA men's basketball tournament every year, including five this season, does not sponsor football or wrestling. Nineteen of Davidson's 21 sports will go to the A-10, Davidson president Dr. Carol Quillen said. Football will remain in the non-scholarship Pioneer League and the Wildcats are hoping to keep their wrestling team in the SoCon.

That also will be discussed at the spring meetings, Iamarino said, along with the status of App State's wrestling and men's soccer teams and Georgia Southern's men's soccer team.

In the past year the SoCon has lost its two most successful football programs in App State and Georgia Southern, its best basketball program in Davidson and a solid basketball program in Charleston. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga interim chancellor Dr. Grady Bogue said he wants the SoCon to "be aggressive" in its search for a replacement school. He said UNC-Asheville, which was previously considered, might be a possibility.

"I think that John will lead us right away toward exploring possible candidates," Bogue said. "I don't know if the presidents will be open to rethinking [previously considered schools]. UNC-Asheville might be one of those. It would be an expedited look because we're already familiar with UNC-Asheville."

Bogue said the league needs to be in a position to vote on a Davidson replacement during the SoCon spring meetings, at the same time it likely votes on other new members.

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