The Southern Conference announced today that it has offered invitations to join the league to East Tennessee State, Mercer and the Virginia Military Institute. The three schools were approved by the SoCon's council of presidents this morning during the spring meetings in Hilton Head, S.C.
All three schools are expected to accept the invitations. Mercer has a news conference scheduled for later today.
In the past six months five SoCon members (College of Charleston, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Davidson and Elon) have announced plans to leave the league for other conferences. Mercer, ETSU and VMI will join the seven remaining members, including the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, to form a 10-member league starting in 2014-15.
For ETSU and VMI, this will be a return move to the SoCon. ETSU left the league in 2005 and joined the Atlantic Sun after dropping its football program. VMI left for the Big South in 2003.
Mercer's football program, coached by former Furman star quarterback and head coach Bobby Lamb, is relaunching this season after a 70-year break. Mercer will likely play in the non-scholarship Pioneer League this fall and start in the SoCon in 2014.
Update: In a release this afternoon, the SoCon announced that ETSU and Mercer have accepted the SoCon's invitations and VMI is expected to do so Friday when its Board of Visitors meets.
"The addition of these three institutions will solidify the Southern Conference and ensure our position as a vibrant league with a bright future," commissioner John Iamarino said in the release. "We are delighted to invite three quality institutions, two of which are returning to a home they previously enjoyed for many years.
"Our membership is excited about rekindling old rivalries and establishing new ones. Most importantly, we've been able to grow while not extending our geographic footprint to an extreme extent."
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