published Friday, July 5th, 2013

Mercer, VMI likely visiting football Mocs in '14

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team likely will have five home games during a 12-game season in 2014. Of those five, three will be Southern Conference matchups, including newcomers Mercer and Virginia Military Institute.

SoCom commissioner John Iamarino said the league has sent out the redone 2014 schedules and is awaiting feedback before they are finalized and approved, which may happen at the athletic directors' meeting in Spartanburg, S.C., during the football media day on July 24.

"We've got a meeting with the athletic directors coming up at the media day, and I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't get resolution of it at that meeting," Iamarino said.

UTC was initially slated to have a quality home schedule with Finley Stadium visits from Appalachian State and Georgia Southern as well as Samford and Elon -- but the plan had to be revised after Elon, App State and Georgia Southern announced they were leaving the conference,

Replacing App State and Georgia Southern, a pair of high-drawing SoCon and Football Championship Subdivision powers, with a new program in Mercer and a long-struggling one in VMI isn't exactly apples for apples. In addition, UTC is one of the unlucky SoCon teams with three home games and four road games in the unbalanced schedule.

The Mocs also will have a SoCon home game against Samford and a nonconference game against Georgia State. UTC athletic director David Blackburn and senior associate athletic director Matt Pope are looking for another nonconference home game.

"I've got to find another home game and I think I can get another FCS game," Blackburn said. "I don't want to go Division II if I don't have to."

The Mocs' 2014 road games include league trips to Furman, Wofford, Western Carolina and The Citadel, as well as nonconference games at Austin Peay, Tennessee and Tennessee Tech.

Blackburn said he wants to find a home game that will draw a good crowd, which is primarily why he's opposed to playing a Division II team. And the clock is ticking because aren't that many options available.

"I do think we need to get this done sooner rather than later," Blackburn said. "I don't think it has to be done by the end of July, but I think the quicker we can go ahead and get it done and fill our schedule, the better."

Blackburn also will be busy in the weeks and months ahead working on an apparel deal for the entire athletic department. Presently, each sport has its own deal (for example, the football players wear Russell Athletic and the men's and women's basketball teams wear Nike).

"I really don't see it happening for this fall or maybe even spring, but I want to get something done as soon as I can," said Blackburn, who dealt with with Adidas during his many years at Tennessee.

"I think it might help that I've sat down in front of those people before, but I'm not tied down to Adidas. I'm honestly shopping around for the best deal for us."

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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