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Southern Conference regroups after power programs depart

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  • New Southern Conference

    Chattanooga

    The Citadel

    East Tennessee State

    Furman

    Mercer

    Samford

    UNC Greensboro

    Mercer

    Western Carolina

    Wofford

    Virginia Military



The Southern Conference will lose its signature basketball program Tuesday when Davidson leaves for the Atlantic 10.

The same thing is happening at the same time with the conference’s top two football programs, with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern departing for the Sun Belt of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.

It has been a difficult time for the Southern Conference, entering its 94th year as the fifth-oldest league in the nation.

In addition to losing Davidson, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, the Southern will lose Elon, which will depart Tuesday for the Colonial Athletic Association, the league to which College of Charleston left for last year.

The Football Championship Subdivision’s Southern Conference has picked up three new members – Mercer, Virginia Military and East Tennessee State – to bring its membership back to 11 schools for 2014-15. VMI and East Tennessee both are former Southern Conference schools who have played in other leagues during recent years.

“The addition of these three institutions will solidify the Southern Conference and ensure our position as a vibrant league with a bright future,” Southern Conference Commissioner John Iamarino said during 2013. “Our membership is excited about rekindling old rivalries and establishing new ones. Most importantly, we’ve been able to grow while not extending our geographic footprint to an extreme extent.”

Appalachian State’s departure for the Sun Belt caps a years-long attempt by the Mountaineers to move up to FBS. A 2011 feasibility study recommended the football program seek membership in the FBS, but the Mountaineers couldn’t do so without an invitation from a conference. Appalachian State received that invitation from the Sun Belt in 2013.

The Mountaineers, winners of consecutive FCS titles in 2005-07, won or shared 10 Southern Conference titles. Georgia Southern, which won six FCS titles, also won or shared 10 league championships.

Another Carolinas school, East Carolina, will leave Conference USA after 17 years on Tuesday to join the American Athletic Conference. The Pirates began playing football in C-USA in 1997 before joining the league as a full-time member in 2001.

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