LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Mid-South Conference Commissioner Mike Pollio announced his retirement today after eight years of service to the conference and its member institutions.
His retirement is effective July 1.
“I have enjoyed every day I have been commissioner of the Mid-South Conference,” Pollio said. “The relationships I have had with the presidents, athletic directors, coaches and staff at each school make this a bittersweet decision.”
A search committee will be formed by the presidents of MSC schools, and a national search will be conducted to find Pollio's replacement.
During Pollio’s eight-year tenure, the Mid-South Conference was one of the top conferences in the NAIA. The MSC enjoyed several notable successes under Pollio’s administration, including: increased membership; created a conference radio network; partnered with Wazoo Sports TV; raised more than $400,000 to support conference tournaments; and partnered with the Louisville Sports Commission to bring NAIA national championships and the national convention to Kentucky.
“Commissioner Pollio has done an outstanding job for each of the Mid-South Conference's member schools,” Campbellsville (Ky.) University President Michael Carter said. “He has brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the commissioner’s office. His professionalism and ability to be fair in his work across the various sports has made each of our schools stronger and promoted the 'Champions of Character Program' of the NAIA.
“We are going to miss him greatly. All of us know that he deserves to have a relaxing next chapter to his life in retirement. We wish he and family the very best in the years ahead. We know he will be cheering for each Mid-South school to be successful as we work to see student-athletes grow and mature into responsible citizens.”
Under Pollio's leadership, MSC football grew from nine to 14 members, making it the NAIA's largest football conference. Because of its size, the conference now receives two automatic bids to the NAIA’s Football Championship Series.
Especially noteworthy is that Pollio increased full membership in the Mid-South Conference. In 2007, the conference had but six full-time members -- the minimum to maintain status as an NAIA conference. This fall, the MSC will boast 10 full-time institutions.
“Expanding the Mid-South into a 10-team conference has been one of Commissioner Pollio’s greatest accomplishments,” said Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) College President William T. Luckey Jr. “A 10-team conference will provide our student-athletes and fans with an exciting league. A 10-team conference will also help a great deal in the areas of scheduling and travel.”
This academic year, the MSC had either 17 full-time or partial members.
Pollio also developed the NAIA's only conference-run radio network. The MSC Radio Network is heard on more than a dozen radio stations in five states.
Pollio took the MSC to television and the World Wide Web by forging an agreement with Wazoo Sports. This school year, Wazoo Sports has televised games of the week for football and basketball; the network plans to televise baseball and softball this spring.
Pollio secured deals that brought the MSC basketball and volleyball tournaments and cheerleading competition to the Frankfort Convention Center and the softball tournament to Jeffersontown, Ky., and Danville, Ky.
Pollio also initiated moving the conference’s home office from Corbin, Ky., to downtown Louisville, where the conference entered into a partnership with the Louisville Sports Commission.
The MSC and Louisville Sports Commission helped bring the 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 NAIA Cross Country National Championships and the 2004 and 2005 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships to the Derby City.
Pollio was also instrumental in bringing the 2008 NAIA National Convention to Louisville -- just the second time the event was held outside of Kansas City, Mo.
Pollio developed arguably the best honors program in the NAIA that recognizes the top MSC student-athletes, both on the playing field and in the classroom. He also embraced the NAIA’s Champions of Character initiative by annually awarding a Champions of Character award to a student-athlete in each conference sport.
“Commissioner Pollio always kept the ‘student’ in ‘student-athlete,’” Luckey said. “He never lost sight that students must always be at the center of intercollegiate athletics.”
In 2007, the Mid-South Conference developed a web site in cooperation with SIDHelp. The web site also serves as the MSC media outlet.
Before coming to the Mid-South Conference, Pollio had a distinguished career that included 37 years in athletics as either a coach or an administrator.
Pollio spent 27 years on the sideline as head basketball coach at Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky Wesleyan College and Virginia Commonwealth University and an assistant coach at VCU and Old Dominion. He served as Kentucky Wesleyan’s athletics director while coaching in Owensboro, Ky.
He was associate athletics director for external affairs at the University of Louisville where he helped secure funding for Papa John’s Cardinal stadium, the home of Louisville football.
Pollio left Louisville for the MSC and will complete his prestigious career with more than 45 years in athletics.
“I’m very proud of the work we have done to make this one of the very best conferences in the NAIA,” Pollio said. “I hope that I have helped enhance each student’s experience in the MSC.”