SoCon must look at football scheduling concerns

SoCon must look at football scheduling concerns

May 28th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sports - College

The Mocs' Davis Tull, No. 90, and Joshua Williams, No. 95, sack Elon's Thomas Wilson, No. 12, as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs played against Elon at Finley Stadium in November 2012.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

UTC athletic director David Blackburn

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Southern Conference

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was going to have a meaty Southern Conference home football schedule in 2014. The Mocs were slated to play Appalachian State and Georgia Southern -- the league's two perennial powers and best draws -- along with Elon and Samford.

Of that quartet, only Samford will be in the SoCon in 2014. Georgia Southern and App State will be rookies in the Sun Belt Conference, while Elon will be a newcomer in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The College of Charleston is officially out of the SoCon at the end of June. Davidson (to the Atlantic 10), Elon (CAA) and App State and Georgia Southern have one more year in the SoCon before departing. Those departures will create many scheduling headaches.

UTC athletic director David Blackburn, hired a little more than a month ago, will be attending his first SoCon spring meetings starting today in Hilton Head, S.C. He said he wants to know what the SoCon is going to do about scheduling problems like the Mocs'.

"My concern is that by these schools leaving, we're in a predicament," he said. "One of the things I'm going to pay attention to at the league meetings is what's our schedule going to look like -- and make sure we're not shortchanged on the number of home games and it's as equitable as it can be."

Commissioner John Iamarino said it is something the league will look at -- senior associate commissioner Geoff Cabe handles scheduling -- but it's probably not something that will get resolved this week.

UTC will play a 12-game football schedule in 2014 and likely will need to add a nonconference game because the SoCon probably will have only eight football-playing members that year.

Of the seven remaining SoCon members, six play football. The league is expected to add Mercer, East Tennessee State and the Virginia Military Institute when it votes on new members Thursday. VMI already plays football, Mercer will play non-cholarship ball in the Pioneer League this fall before starting in the SoCon in 2014 and ETSU will field a team starting in 2015 at the earliest.

"We've got to have five for sure," Blackburn said of home games in 2014. "Both for conference reasons and also budgetary reasons, we need a fifth home game."

Officials from all 11 2013 SoCon members will take part in meetings today. Among the topics they will discuss is whether to allow the departing schools to be eligible for SoCon titles in 2013-14. Georgia Southern and App State already will not be in football because they will be above the 63-scholarship limit in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Georgia Southern (volleyball) and Davidson (women's soccer) are scheduled to host SoCon championships in 2013-14, and a decision has to be made on whether to allow them to do so. The SoCon also must determine where to hold the 2014 softball championships, which the College of Charleston was scheduled to host.

Blackburn wasn't prepared last Friday to state publicly his opinion on allowing departing schools to win league titles. On whether they should host events, he was definitive: "My opinion is they should certainly not be allowed to host competitions."

All of the coaches' meetings that typically take place this week have been postponed so the SoCon can settle the membership matters. After today, the meetings will include only the seven schools after the 2013-14 school year.

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