Duer Sharp, the long-serving commissioner of the historically black Southwestern Athletic Conference, resigned today amid rumors of potential financial issues and concern among member school presidents about the direction of the conference.
The resignation, first reported by HBCU Sports and HBCU Gameday, comes during the conference’s annual meetings between president’s and chancellors. Reports swirled earlier this morning about Sharp’s contract being a topic of discussion for the meetings, and possibilities of Sharp not receiving an extension at the conclusion of his current deal, set to expire this summer.
Sharp, who joined the SWAC in 2004 as an assistant commissioner and was promoted to commissioner in 2008, oversaw several major changes for the SWAC conference, including the negotiation of the conference’s participation in the ESPN-created Celebration Bowl along with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and television and digital broadcasting rights for member schools.
But Sharp’s tenure frequently drew criticism from fans for a perceived lack of wins in business negotiations. Earlier this year, the conference announced its plans to discontinue its conference football championship game to accommodate its Celebration Bowl appearance, which drew concern about revenues, and potential chaos in the event of tiebreakers.
In 2015, the conference inked a controversial apparel deal with Nike which yielded the conference apparel, equipment, and tickets but no money to the member schools or conference office. Sharp was particularly criticized for receiving a personal apparel appropriation valued at $10,000.
Last month, the University of Texas athletic program signed a 15-year, $200 million extension with Nike to serve as its official apparel and equipment. Believe to be the largest deal in college sports history, some business experts estimate that the deal will generate UT $15 million annually in revenue, a fraction of what ESPN estimates to be a $4.6 billion industry shared between universities and athletic manufacturers.
The conference had not released a statement, or word on an interim commissioner as of press time.