The Southern Conference will limit its 2021 baseball championship tournament to just four teams, and all the league's three-game baseball series next season will be played over two days instead of three.
The league also will freeze staff salaries and reduce the size of staff at the conference office in cost-cutting measures announced Thursday to handle a budget crunch caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“In order to address the significant financial shortfalls created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the league’s presidents and ADs approved a cost savings plan for the 2020-21 athletic year that will assist with these challenges,” SoCon commissioner Jim Schaus said. “These are not easy decisions to make but are necessary given the unprecedented circumstances. I applaud our conference leadership in being proactive and strategic in addressing this issue.
“As we move forward, we cannot predict the future status of the virus. However, we will continue to make health and safety a priority and follow all necessary guidelines. Moreover, we certainly can and will revisit our policies as needed. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding during this process.”
The SoCon includes state schools The Citadel, Furman and Wofford.
The pandemic has shut down college sports since mid-March, including the lucrative NCAA men’s basketball tournament. On March 26, the NCAA announced it would cut its annual distribution to Division I conferences to $225 million. That’s just 37.5 percent of its typical $600 million that was set to be distributed to those institutions at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.
The SoCon's cost-cutting measures also include:
• Reducing the number of teams qualifying for conference championships to the top four teams in the regular season in the sports of men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, and softball as well as baseball. The league said it would also reduce expenses at championship events.
• Reducing all conference baseball series from three days to two.
• Reducing the men’s and women’s golf championships from three days to two.
• Adjusting in-person coaches’ meetings and the conference’s fall meetings to virtual events;
• Adjusting in-person football and basketball media days to virtual events;
• Identifying other potential savings concepts that each institution can implement per its preference.
Additionally, the conference office will reduce staff travel to regular-season contests and conventions and professional development seminars.
“The Southern Conference continues to be served well by its tight geographic footprint, both in terms of reducing travel time for student-athletes and reducing costs for member institutions, something increasingly important in these challenging times,” said Mercer president Bill Underwood, chairman of the council of presidents. "I believe that these strategies will further enhance the cost effectiveness of SoCon membership while continuing to ensure high quality experiences for our student-athletes.”