SIAC benefits from new commissioners’ work

Gregory Moore loves ideas.

His ideas. Other people’s ideas. Borrowed ideas. Recycled ideas.

No idea is a bad idea.

He wants to hear them all because maybe the next one will help increase the visibility or open another revenue stream for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a group of 15 historically black colleges and universities headquartered in Peachtree Center.

And as the SIAC’s commissioner, Moore is responsible for serving its institutions by bolstering the brand and finding new and innovative — and lucrative — ways to propel the 101-year-old conference into the future.

“We try to have a very democratic office here,” Moore said. “I’ll be the final decision-maker, but everybody’s idea is given a full hearing.”

Moore has implemented many of those in the past five years to help take the SIAC — which includes Clark Atlanta and Morehouse — from a financially catastrophic situation to stability in five years.

The conference was $400,000 in debt and about to lose its main partners — Coca-Cola, Nike and Russell Athletic — when Moore started in January 2009. The member schools were paying extra on top of their yearly dues to help keep the conference afloat.

So he drove to meet with the president of every school in the conference and began formulating a plan to eliminate the financial hole.

Moore drew on his background as an attorney in the sports-and-entertainment field to work through many legal issues and quickly overcame any stigma attached to him because he’s from New Jersey and didn’t attend an HBCU. He graduated from the College of New Jersey and earned his law degree from Oregon.

“Before he became the commissioner, the commissioner’s office and the SIAC were in disarray,” said Miles College President George T. French, chairman of the SIAC’s Council of Presidents. “We were open (to Moore) because he has experience as a lawyer, so he’s good at negotiations, has great interpersonal relationship skills and he thinks outside of the box. So when he came to us with ideas for increasing sponsorships and revenue, we were very open.”

Moore quickly negotiated deals to keep the corporate partners in place and stressed the need for every school’s athletic department to have and maintain a website separate from the university’s .edu site.

He wanted to cater to the conference’s strong alumni and football fan base — the SIAC has led Division II in football attendance for 11 consecutive years (6,696 fans per game in 2013) — by placing an emphasis on building the conference brand through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The SIAC also became the first Division II conference to have an Android app.

Moore restructured the conference’s athletic championships, moving the baseball and basketball tournaments to more profitable locations and created the football championship game, which was first played at Clark Atlanta’s Panther Stadium in 2011.

The game moved to Lakewood Stadium for two years, but the SIAC wanted a larger home, so this year’s game will be held at the Cramton Bowl, a 25,000-seat stadium in Montgomery, Ala., on Nov. 15.

“What struck me when they brought Commissioner Moore on board was that he had a broad visionary plan,” said Eric Moore, managing partner of The Onnidan Group, a statistical-based news organization for HBCU schools and conferences. “He knew there was a lot of potential there. He does his research and doesn’t fly off the handle. That research helps him focus on what particular areas he needs to concentrate on.”

One of Gregory Moore’s biggest accomplishments has been to consolidate all of the school’s athletic websites under the SIAC umbrella, following a model used by MLB and its franchises. That allows the SIAC to count all the page views across the entire digital platform when it comes to marketing and advertising purposes.

The revenue generated by the websites allowed Moore to give each school a $2,000 check last year.

“I know it’s not the $20 million that SEC schools get, but in Division II, it was unheard of for a conference office to generate money back to the schools, so I was very proud of that,” he said.

The SIAC, which is a 501(c)(3), has eliminated its debt, and the Council of Presidents unanimously agreed to reward Moore with a four-year contract extension that began July 1. As for the future, Moore said he is in discussions with ESPN “about broadcasting our games next year on ESPN3.”

“There’s a renewed confidence in the conference,” French said. “The conference is growing. We’re at 15 institutions, so we’ve increased the conference membership. Schools are interested in being a member of the SIAC. I’m just happy to see the turnaround that Commissioner Moore has been able to lead.”