One week ago, the College of Charleston board of trustees ended months of talk about moving by voting unanimously to join the Colonial Athletic Association. And with that decision the ever-growing snowball of conference realignment finally crashed into the Southern Conference.
A 12-member league since Samford joined in 2008, the SoCon will be down to 11 once the 2012-13 academic year is complete -- unless more schools pack their bags, which is a real possibility. Georgia Southern and Appalachian State repeatedly have expressed desires to move to a Football Bowl Subdivision conference, and they could find homes in a Sun Belt league in need to teams.
SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said the league will not be replacing the Cougars before the start of the 2013-14 school year.
"I don't think there's any reason for us to rush," he said. "Common sense tells us we're not going to be able to add anybody for the '13-14 year. That would be an extremely short time frame."
The SoCon's athletic directors will meet in Charlotte next month for a previously scheduled retreat. One of the first things that must be decided, Iamarino said, is whether the league acts at all. He said there are high-ranking people at SoCon schools who believe the prudent thing to do is wait.
"That's the question I think we need to start out with as we have these discussions," he said. "I know that there are a couple of institutions that have expressed the opinion that these changes that are taking place are clearly not over yet and could continue for months and years.
"In the meantime, perhaps we might be better suited -- this is their stance, not necessarily mine -- by waiting a little bit to see what the landscape looks like in the near future as opposed to right now."
The landscape is definitely changing, as it has been for 30 months, since Colorado and Nebraska left the Big 12 and really kicked off conference-change frenzy that has abated at times but hasn't stopped. Business has picked up greatly in the past few weeks as teams have shuffled from league to league.
Once Conference USA and the Sun Belt got involved, that put Georgia Southern and Appalachian State on the clock.
"I know there are reports out there that we're already in [the Sun Belt], but at this point it's really early," new GSU athletic director Tom Kleinlein told the Macon Telegraph last week.
The College of Charleston doesn't have football, so its departure will not affect the SoCon's nine football programs and eight-game schedule. The departure of either ASU or GSU, the league's most successful football programs, would affect both scheduling and the league's status as one of the elite in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Iamarino won't name any schools on the SoCon's radar. Some possible candidates might be Mercer, VMI, Kennesaw State or perhaps an Ohio Valley Conference school such as Eastern Kentucky or Tennessee Tech.
He said every school within the SoCon footprint that might be a good fit "is in play." Of course that's assuming the SoCon's presidents and chancellors, who will make the final decision, decide to do anything.