Search Firms Partner to Find New Commissioner for Southern Conference

June 14, 2019 – Executive search firms College Sports Solutions (CSS) and Buffkin / Baker have collaborated to recruit Ohio University director of athletics Jim Schaus as the new commissioner of the Southern Conference. Atlanta-based College Sports, which managed the search, was chosen for its expertise in finding athletics leaders, while Buffkin/ Baker, based in Brentwood, TN, offered prowess in tapping top academic talent. The search was led by Jeff Schemmel, founder and president of Collegiate Sports Solutions.

Mr. Schaus will be the ninth commissioner in league history. He succeeds John Iamarino, who announced his retirement in March following a 13-year career at the helm of the league office.

“We are excited by the leadership that Jim will bring to the Southern Conference,” said East Tennessee State University president Brian Noland, who chaired the search committee. “He is among the most well-respected athletic directors in the nation, and he brings a vision and a wealth of experience that will be highly valuable to the league.”

Mr. Schaus comes to the SoCon after an 11-year run as director of athletics at Ohio University, where he led the Bobcats to unprecedented levels of success in athletics and academics. Before Ohio University, he served from 1999 to 2008 as athletic director at Wichita State, where he was named the Division I Central Region AstroTurf AD of the Year in 2007. With more than 30 years experience in athletics administration, Mr. Schaus also had stops at Oregon, Cincinnati, Texas-El Paso and Northern Illinois. He also has experience in the NFL, having worked as an intern for the New England Patriots and as the director of marketing for the Washington Redskin. He also served as a publicity assistant for the LPGA Tour.

The Southern Conference is composed of 10 institutions located in six contiguous states. Founded in 1921, it is the fifth oldest continuing conference in NCAA Division Athletics. Its member schools are the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the Citadel, East Tennessee State University, Furman University, Mercer University, Samford University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Virginia Military Institute, Western Carolina University and Wofford College.

Related: College Sports Solutions Recruits Commissioner for Big Sky Conference

“I believe that my varied career experiences in college athletics will assist me in this important leadership role for outstanding member institutions,” said Mr. Schaus. “I look forward to working with the staff and conference membership to build upon past successes in the quest to be the premier mid-major conference in the country. It will be a priority to be successful athletically, academically and support the personal well-being of our student-athletes.”

Leading Recruiters

CSS is a leading full-service and integrated provider of collegiate athletic consulting, strategies and solutions to universities, intercollegiate conferences and collegiate organizations. The firm provides executive search services for coach and administrator searches.


Korn Ferry Lands New Commissioner for the Big Ten Conference
Korn Ferry placed Kevin Warren, chief operating officer of professional football’s Minnesota Vikings, as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference. The search was led by Jed Hughes, Korn Ferry’s vice chairman and global sports sector leader. Mr. Warren is the 1st African-American commissioner of a Power 5 conference.


CSS successfully completed the recent search for commissioner of the Big Sky Conference along with numerous head coaching positions.

The firm’s clients run the gamut of collegiate sports institutions, including Auburn University, Alabama State University, Alabama A & M University, Boise State University, Brigham Young University, University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Grand Canyon University, Montana State University, New Mexico State University, Oregon State University, Presbyterian College, Tulane University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Central Missouri, University of Houston, University of Minnesota, University of New Mexico, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), University of North Carolina (Charlotte), University of Northern Iowa, University of South Dakota, University of South Florida and University of Utah.

Related: Egon Zehnder Finds New Commissioner for Australian Football League

Mr. Schemmel directs all business development and intercollegiate industry relations and provides hands-on services. Prior to launching CSS, he was the managing director of the college division of JMI Sports.

With over 25 years of intercollegiate athletics management experience, Mr. Schemmel is a former athletic director who has served in key leadership positions within the NCAA, the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA and at schools in the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences. He was director of athletics at San Diego State University from 2005 to 2009. During his tenure, he negotiated the school’s first comprehensive apparel/equipment contract with Nike and was responsible for hiring and retaining many of the school’s successful coaches and administrators.

Buffkin / Baker has completed more than 550 searches for universities and colleges across the country. The firm is currently conducting the search for the chancellor of Western Carolina University along with numerous other academic positions. Buffkin/ Baker recently conducted searches for a number of institutions in the Power Five conferences, as well as leading liberal arts colleges, AAU institutions and regional universities. Besides Tennessee, the firm has offices in New York, Washington, D.C. and Winston-Salem, NC, with affiliate offices in London. Buffkin/ Baker is a member of Panorama Search, an international federation of retained firms with 18 firms and over 30 offices globally.

Related: Big Ten Conference Taps Korn Ferry to Find New Commissioner

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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