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SoCon adds Mercer, VMI and East Tennessee State

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

The Southern Conference made big realignment moves Thursday, announcing three schools would be added to the league. The changes will take effect on July 1, 2014, when Mercer, Virginia Military Institute and East Tennessee State join the fold.

Mercer and ETSU will be leaving the Atlantic Sun; VMI exits the Big South. The SoCon is wrapping up the conference's annual spring meetings, and commissioner John Iamarino said these moves will be official when the Board of Visitors signs them into action on Friday.

ETSU and VMI are past members of the SoCon. VMI left in 2003, ETSU in 2005 (27 years after joining the league).

“The addition of these three institutions will solidify the Southern Conference and ensure our position as a vibrant league with a bright future,” Iamarino said in a statement. “We are delighted to invite three quality institutions, two of which are returning to a home they previously enjoyed for many years.

East Tennessee State has an enrollment of more than 15,000 students, all told. Mercer has more than 8,300, and VMI, a military academy, has more than 1,500 cadets. Mercer was a founding member of the Atlantic Sun dating back to 1978. VMI was in the SoCon from 1924-2003.

All three schools will be football-playing members of the league.

East Tennessee State announced last month they were bringing back the football program, which had participated in the SoCon before being dropped after the 2003 season.

Mercer will re-launch its football program in 2013 as a member of the FCS non-scholarship Pioneer Football League. VMI's football program participates in the Big South along with the school's other sports.
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