So-Consolation: At least we got Steph Curry years

Stephen Curry played in the SoCon.

When news of Davidson’s move from the Southern Conference to the Atlantic 10 broke on Tuesday, SoCon commissioner John Iamarino was surprised.

As Davidson made the move official Wednesday, Iamarino’s reaction had officially changed to “disappointed.”

“Davidson and the Southern Conference have been a good fit for many decades,” Iamarino said in a statement. “We’re disappointed in the administration’s decision to leave, but understand the dynamics of collegiate athletics have led to many decisions such as this one. We wish the Davidson athletic department well.”

These are tough times for the SoCon and Iamarino, weathering the loss of its top two football programs (App State and Georgia Southern) to the FBS Sun Belt, and arguably its top two basketball programs (definitely Davidson, and maybe College of Charleston, though Wofford might argue).

The SoCon should survive. After all, this is a league that once included much of the ACC and the SEC — and even Marshall. And the SoCon even made it through Davidson’s brief residency in the Big South back in the 1990s. (Fun times).

But the league won’t be the same.

I saw former Citadel, ETSU and N.C. State athletic director Les Robinson this morning, and he shook his head sadly.

“I hate all this stuff,” he said. “Not just for College of Charleston or The Citadel, but for everyone … Maryland, the ACC, across the nation.  We’re losing so much.”

Some SoCon fans see a silver lining, a chance for an all-sports league, with all members taking part in scholarship football. The loss of Davidson and CofC leaves only UNC Greensboro as a non-football playing member. Prospective members ETSU, VMI and Mercer all are bringing their footballs with them, although it’s not clear when start-up programs at ETSU and Mercer will be ready for SoCon play.

But it’s clear that SoCon football — once celebrated as the “SEC of FCS” — will not be what it was, at least in the short term, without GSU and App State and their nine FCS titles.

Even with Davidson, SoCon basketball is a one-bid league already mired in the lower reaches of RPI. Mercer slides in neatly for CofC in hoops and baseball; VMI and ETSU won’t help much, but won’t hurt much either in in those two sports.

Now, the question of a fourth new member arises. Iamarino acknowledged last week that football-less UNC Asheville received consideration; maybe it will be reconsidered. Kennesaw State, another Atlantic Sun member with a football start-up, also could be a target. Heck, maybe even Coastal Carolina will make it onto the radar.

In the meantime, Davidson, winner of five of the last eight SoCon tournament titles, will get its shot on a bigger stage.

The A-10 ranked seventh in the nation in RPI last year in basketball (compared with 27 for the SoCon), and landed five teams in the NCAA Tournament, the sixth year in a row the league had earned at least three bids.

But at the same time, the Atlantic 10 is losing stalwarts such as Butler, Xavier, Temple and Charlotte. Davidson’s RPI of 65 last year would place it fifth among the A-10′s current lineup, behind St. Louis (17), VCU (26), LaSalle (34) and UMass (59).

Last year, Davidson turned down a chance to join C of C in the Colonial, citing increased travel costs and missed class time for athletes as a couple of reasons.

“A year ago, we felt like our crystal ball didn’t tell us enough to make a logical decision going forward,” athletic Jim Murphy said Wednesday. “Over the last several months, the Atlantic 10 has become an opportunity for us that didn’t exist a year ago. Waiting opened up our options, and we felt like the Atlantic 10 was an option we didn’t want to pass up.”

Somehow, the issue of class time did not come up at Davidson’s news conference today. Expenses will take care of themselves, Murphy said.

“The expenses will go up, when you look at travel and recruiting budgets and things like that,” Murphy said. “But at the same time, the revenue stream is there in the A-10 that will help us offset some of those costs.”

Murphy admitted it was tough to leave the SoCon.

“Our sentimental ties with the SoCon were tough to sever,” he said.

For SoCon fans, there is one small consolation — at least we got the Stephen Curry years.


4 thoughts on “So-Consolation: At least we got Steph Curry years

  1. As I have said all during this process, the SOCON commissioner is not exercising the necessary leadership to re-shape the conference. Bold , aggressive action should have been taken long ago to rebuild the conference, given the shifting landscape in college athletics. I do not care about RPI or being the SEC of FCS . My preference would be a conference of schools that share the same academic and athletic philosophy. Davidson was extremely strong academically and in basketball but chose to offer only non-scholarship football. I hate to see them leave but that was their choice. Now, the conference should should get UNCG to go elsewhere or not admit schools that do not have football and wait for them to leave and establish a conference of all schools that have football programs.
    VMI is an excellent choice. Mercer is , as well . Both should upgrade their football programs as a stipulation to join the conference.
    ETSU is not acceptable for membership- but will probably be admitted if if commits to a new stadium and scholarship football.
    I thought that PC would be a good addition ,but apparently I am the only one. It is good academically, but would have to strengthen its football program. Mercer and ETSU must do the same. ?????? So has PC been approached and indicated it is not interested? Years ago some thought that Wofford would be a joke…… Obviously, they were wrong. Apparently, the only joke is the commissioner of the SOCON.
    The SOCON needs to make a statement and , in a small way, return sanity to college athletics. I am not optimistic , however. I hope I am wrong.
    If i am wrong ,please refute my opinion. Thanks

  2. I agree with Joe Clark that PC should be considered. They have an established fb program while others are just in the planning stage. Perhaps they already said thanks but no thanks.
    SoCon is in freefall and I see no leadership. I think the league needs a Florida school. Stetson is at the same stage as Mercer – starting a fb program and strong in baseball. League also needs a stud school to replace Ap St. It’s a stretch but I’m thinking Navy. They would have to drop down from div 1 and it would take a great sales pitch. Getting a Navy would also help entice Richmond and Wm & Mary. FIU and/or FAU are also possibilities. They jumped into div 1 too fast and they are in a snooze league that doesn’t draw well. Long shots yes and it would take work and planning.

  3. The SoCon is making bad additions except Mercer. They should look big picture and drop into Florida, schools like Jacksonville to help keep Elon, maybe Florida Gulf Coast to help take rebuild Basketball, and then think hard about the 12th school.

    For Football you want 9, enough to schedule 8 games. Nothing more, there is no conference playoff. For Basketball you want exposure. At FCS level Basketball TV is were the money is. So the focus should be to add TV sets (Florida) and add quality (FGCU, Mercer) to make it attractive to TV. ETSU and VMI do neither, and don’t help the academics.

    If ETSU and VMI are added I think Elon will bolt for the CAA, and you could see Furman look for the exit as well. There needs to be a plan, both for academic association and Basketball visibility. You can always add associate Football members from the Big South (which is shaky in Football)

  4. VMI is an excellent choice if it will upgrade its FB program. The academics at VMI are very compatible withe most SOCON schools. ETSU is NOT a fit for the conference for may reasons. Mercer is ok, if it commits to a scholarship FB program. Jacksonville , and the other FLA schools, are not SOCON candidates in my opinion. They are jokes !!!
    I would add PC or another stronger academic school.

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