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Four schools consider SCAC departure in 2012

By Michael Appelgate and Leslie Gaber
On May 10, 2011

After 13 years, 76 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference titles and six Presidents Trophies, DePauw will close the final chapter on its membership in the conference at the end of the school year.

While the Tigers' decision to join the North Coast Athletic Conference has been official since last June, this summer could bring even more drastic changes for the remaining members of the SCAC.

SCAC Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry confirmed via email Sunday that Sewanee: The University of the South, Rhodes College, Hendrix College and Centre College have all expressed their intent to leave the conference effective July 1, 2012. Hanberry said he does not expect a formal announcement to be made until after the conference presidents' meeting on June 7.

University presidents of each of the member institutions were informed of the four schools' considerations in an email sent last week, according to Laurie Saxton, director of media relations at Sewanee.

Should Sewanee, Rhodes, Hendrix and Centre choose to leave the SCAC, the size of the conference would be cut from 12 members down to eight with Austin College, Birmingham-Southern College, Colorado College, Millsaps College, Oglethorpe University, Southwestern University and Trinity University remaining. In September, the University of Dallas accepted an invitation to join the SCAC beginning with the 2011-12 season.

Athletic department and university administrators at Centre, Hendrix and Sewanee have acknowledged that major changes to the conference's makeup are being considered. However, all three administrators said that discussion is ongoing, and no final decisions have been made. Administrators at Rhodes could not be reached by phone before publication.

"The email said that they were considering it," Saxton said. "A decision has not been made, but they are considering it."

While the reasons behind the four schools' considerations may not become clear until after the June 7 presidents' meeting, geographic distance and the cost of travel could be factors in the discussions.

"I know that as the conference talks about expanding, we have concerns about a sprawling conference," Saxton said. "So a lot of travel and time out of class, cost of travel, a lot of concerns comes from that."

Danny Powell, executive director of athletics at Hendrix, conveyed similar sentiments.

"As an athletic director, you are just looking for a schedule to play and if it's cost effective and a good experience for your students," Powell said. "People are just looking at what's best long-term for their school, and I think that's what we're doing."

Factors such as the cost of transportation also played into DePauw's decision to leave the SCAC for the NCAC.

"There isn't a school in the country that isn't looking at how they can cut the travel cost in the interest of sustainability and also just from a financial standpoint," said Page Cotton, director of athletics.

A main reason why the four schools might leave, according to Powell, is the SCAC's discussions about splitting the conference into divisions.

"We have different relations with those schools in the west, in Texas, and the East," Powell said. "We want to keep playing those folks, if you think about a league, you think about if the schools who have similar philosophies and similar size. I've been here nine-and-a-half years, and I have enjoyed dealing with a lot of the folks in the league."

Creating divisions would eliminate match ups in the regular season and, according to Cotton, some schools favor divisional competition while others want to play everyone in the conference.

No matter the reasons, if the four schools do decide to leave the conference, it will put a halt on the splitting of the conference into two divisions. If the decision is made final, the conference will have lost five teams in two years. After gaining the Dallas, the conference will be left with eight teams.

Brian Chafin, director of athletics and recreation at Centre, said other current member institutions of the conference are evaluating their role and membership.

"There has been discussion throughout the entire conference of looking at other options for all schools for the year of 2012-2013," he said.

— Lewis Brown and Tyler James contributed to this story.

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