SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — It's been a restless few years for Southern Conference Commissioner John Iamarino. These days, the longtime league leader can finally get some sleep.
The SoCon has lost five members over the last two years as a result of conference realignment, including Football Championship Subdivision titlists Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.
But with the additions of East Tennessee, Mercer and VMI for this academic year, Iamarino believes the era of rampant change is done.
Iamarino said Wednesday the stability will allow the league to concentrate "on some progressive things as opposed to kind of trying to defend the flank and react to comments and rumors that are out there.
"You never know in this business, but I do believe these 10 (schools) are committed to each other and to the league."
As evidence, Iamarino said presidents of league schools voted unanimously to increase the exit fee they'd pay upon moving with at least a year's notice to $1 million from $300,000. The fee for moving inside of a year was upped to $1.25 million.
"That's a good sign that they were willing to tax themselves if somebody was thinking about leaving," he said.
Along with a stable membership comes a perception the league won't be as strong without the Mountaineers and Eagles, who had won or shared 18 conference championships the previous 23 seasons.
Neither, though, were among the three schools (Furman, Chattanooga, Samford) who shared the crown last year.
"Probably people who follow FCS football will think we'll be down for a while, but I don't believe it'll be as long as they think," Iamarino said.
The commissioner is confident the conference would have multiple bids to the FCS' 24-team playoffs this year.
"We're not a one-bid league," Iamarino said.
Wofford coach Mike Ayers said the rest of the league, knowing Appalachian State and Georgia Southern were moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, saw an opportunity to chase a top spot and it ramped up their programs.
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