Why does the SCAC conference office remain in Atlanta?

Photo courtesy SCAC

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Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry is often asked, “Why does the conference Commissioner live in Atlanta?”.

It’s a reasonable question, considering eight of the SCAC’s 11 full-time members entering the 2024-2025 school year are located in Texas, with the remaining schools in Colorado, Louisiana, and one football affiliate member in Arkansas.

To answer the question above, we looked at the SCAC's history. The conference was founded in September 1962 as the Collegiate Athletic Conference (CAC) with four charter members: Sewanee and Rhodes College in Tennessee, Washington and Lee in Virginia, and Centre College in Kentucky.

The CAC underwent multiple membership changes throughout its first 29 years, including adding Trinity and Millsaps College in Mississippi in 1988. Hendrix College in Arkansas and Oglethorpe University in Atlanta joined in 1991, a historic year for the conference.

In addition to expanding its membership to a high of eight institutions, the CAC began to sponsor women’s sports. University presidents sought to rebrand the conference from the CAC to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and hired its first full-time commissioner, Stephen Argo. At that time, a permanent conference office was established in Atlanta.

“The Presidents at that time thought it made the most sense for the conference office to be in Atlanta with easy access to airports, considering we were a flight league even then,” Hanberry said. “They thought it would be easier for Stephen to get around to the conference’s schools from Atlanta.”

The SCAC thrived over the next 20 years, expanding to 12 institutions in 2011, including Southwestern, which joined in 1993, Austin College (2006), and the University of Dallas (2011). Argo submitted his resignation in January 2008, and Hanberry was named interim Commissioner. Hanberry officially became the second full-time commissioner of the SCAC in June 2008.

However, the conference’s future became uncertain when seven members, including charter members Centre, Sewanee, and Rhodes, announced they were leaving to form the Southern Athletic Association following the SCAC Presidents’ meeting in June 2011.

With the future of the conference unknown, Hanberry became concerned the university presidents would remove him as Commissioner.

“As I began to get inklings that restructuring was getting close to happening, I became worried because it’s easy for people to blame the commissioner. After all, I was in charge when everything went south,” Hanberry said. “I started exploring other opportunities with other conferences and was in the running for a commissioner position in the Midwest.”

But Hanberry didn’t shoulder the entire blame for the SCAC’s problems. Instead, the seven schools departing to form the SAA were interested in Hanberry becoming their commissioner. The five remaining institutions also expressed a desire for Hanberry to remain commissioner, which left him with a choice.

“By the time I went through any kind of search process for a new league, I had a pretty good idea that I would have an opportunity to stay with the SCAC or follow the group breaking away,” Hanberry said. “In my heart of hearts, I wanted to stay in the SCAC, even though, in retrospect, it might’ve been more of a roll of the dice not to take the more sure thing. But I joined the SCAC in 1995 and felt it’s where I belonged.”

While Hanberry desired to remain with the SCAC, he understood it might not be practical for the conference office to stay in Atlanta with four full-time members in Texas and one in Colorado. But Hanberry was hesitant to move his family from Atlanta with his wife working for now Warner Bros. Discovery, one child in high school and another in middle school.

“My wife, to this day, has the better job, and it made no sense to me to pull her away from that job,” Hanberry said. “I told the Presidents I wanted to be their guy and help put this conference back together because I believed in what we were doing. My one request was to keep the conference office in Atlanta. The Presidents were very kind and considerate.”

The university presidents quickly decided to allow the conference office in Atlanta and keep Hanberry as commissioner. He immediately stabilized the conference by adding Centenary College in Louisiana in September 2011. Schreiner and Texas Lutheran announced they were joining the SCAC in 2012, which allowed the conference to remain an active NCAA Division III conference and keep its automatic bid to the playoffs.

Since those fateful days in 2011, the conference has undergone multiple changes in membership, and numerous presidents have assumed command.

“It’s funny because every time a new president arrives, one of the first questions asked is, ‘Why does our conference Commissioner live in Atlanta?’ and I tell this same story again,” Hanberry said.

Hanberry signed a five-year contract extension in June 2023. This time, the university presidents placed a line in his contract stating the conference office will remain in Atlanta for as long as Hanberry remains the commissioner.

While it may seem odd to have a conference office in the Eastern time zone with its members in Central and Mountain time zones, Hanberry remains a flight away.

“The university presidents have been very good to me. Hopefully, they don’t feel like they’re losing out on any services with us being here,” Hanberry said. “We never miss a championship, and I get to their campuses from time to time.”

The next time someone asks Hanberry why the SCAC office is in Atlanta, he can point them to his contract and this story.

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