After losing five of his schools in recent months, Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino sounds like he’s fed up.
Typically, the commish has greeted these departures with corporate-speak about what “valuable partners” the schools have been, yada, yada. Not so with Elon, which left for the Colonial Athletic Association on Thursday:
“In recent years, it became increasingly evident that Elon’s negative view of the diversity in the Southern Conference was not shared by the majority of the membership,” the commish said. “Our core group remains firmly committed to each other and to the academic and athletic success of the Southern Conference. We are preparing specific initiatives to achieve that success.”
Indeed, Elon’s own hometown columnist said the move to the CAA could be called “ungrateful and greedy.”
It’s clear that the SoCon did a lot for a tiny, unknown private school fresh out of Division II and then the Big South when the league took on Elon back in 2003. The Fightin’ Phoenix are perhaps best remembered for the sideline scuffle between then football coach Pete Lembo and a player at Johnson Hagood Stadium, and for QB/3B “Rowdy” Scott Riddle’s part in a baseball brawl that left Citadel coach Fred Jordan’s arm in a sling in 2010.
Riddle’s post-graduate career also has been distinguished.
Elon, which for some reason was allowed to participate in recent SoCon expansion talks despite its obvious dalliance with the CAA, was reportedly opposed to adding public schools ETSU and VMI to the fold.
The beleaguered Iamarino was in Johnson City, Tenn., on Thursday to check out ETSU, the third of three campus visits to prospective members Mercer, VMI and ETSU. With his “core group” down to seven — The Citadel, Wofford, Furman, Chattanooga, Western Carolina, Samford and UNCG — Iamarino needs some good news fast.
But apparently, we’ll have to wait until the SoCon’s meetings next week in Hilton Head for any formal invitations. These other leagues seem to be able to move more quickly, for whatever reason.
Adding those three will still leave the SoCon down two, and of course the rumors are swirling — Belmont, UNC Asheville, Winthrop, Coastal Carolina, almost any school in the Big South or Atlantic Sun could be a candidate.
Perhaps with Elon and its “increasingly negative view” out of the way, SoCon consensus will be easier to reach.