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SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp talks to media during the Southwestern Athletic ConferenceÕs annual media gathering, Friday, July 14, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. (Advocate Photo/Butch Dill) ORG XMIT: albd101

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY BUTCH DILL

Duer Sharp has officially separated from the Southwestern Athletic Conference. 

The SWAC office announced the move Wednesday morning, saying Sharp was leaving the conference to "pursue other opportunities." Edgar Gantt, formerly the SWAC associate commissioner, will serve as the interim commissioner. 

Sharp's departure became official December 31, according to the SWAC release. 

This news was, to a degree, expected. The Advocate reported from the SWAC meetings in December that Sharp submitted a letter of resignation, and while it was unclear how long Sharp would remain in his role, it was clear his contract would not be renewed after it expired this summer.

Sharp disputed that report at the time, saying he had no plans to leave before the term of his contract finished. 

"I'm the commissioner and I plan to be moving forward," Sharp said in December. 

Southern athletic director Roman Banks said in December there was "unanimous concern" among SWAC leadership about the direction the conference was taking under Sharp. 

One of the major concerns, according to Banks, was a "lack of sponsorships" that caused Southern to "look around at other leagues." 

Sharp started with the conference as assistant commissioner in 2004 and has served as commissioner since 2008.

Under Sharp's direction, the league secured a spot in the Celebration Bowl opposite the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion, and it also orchestrated the move of the league's football and basketball conference championships to Houston in 2013.

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.