The Southern Conference is looking at trying to expand in time for the 2014-15 academic year, commissioner John Iamarino said last weekend during the league basketball tournaments in Asheville, N.C.
With the College of Charleston already headed to the Colonial Athletic Association this summer and Appalachian State and Georgia Southern waiting to move up to a Football Bowl Subdivision conference as soon as possible, the SoCon has to begin securing its own future.
Losing football powers App State and GSU would leave the league with just seven football schools. Should the league lose them, men's soccer would be down to five programs.
"You can't survive with that," Iamarino told the Times Free Press on Sunday. "You can't have a decent schedule."
ASU and GSU frequently are mentioned in reports as targets of the Sun Belt Conference, which needs programs after losing several of its members to Conference USA, which was raided by the Big East.
Iamarino said the SoCon's presidents and chancellors are focused on three things when it comes to prospective members: academics, athletics and geography.
"Maybe we're in the minority, but geography matters to us," he said. "We do not want to have to put our teams on airplanes, if we can avoid it. I think we're willing to extend the geographic footprint a little bit, but we're not going to get ridiculous about it."
An in-person meeting of the league's top brass has been scheduled for April, ahead of the annual meeting in May, Iamarino said, "because we do think we need to address just the membership issues."
Iamarino won't speak about specific schools, but he said there's some talk among the presidents of pushing north. That could put some Virginia schools in play, such as VMI, in Lexington, Va. -- a former league member that still wrestles in the SoCon.
The state of Georgia is in the heart of the SoCon footprint, and there won't be a Georgia school in the league if the Eagles leave. Iamarino said he didn't think it was a necessity for the league to have a Georgia school, but it might be desirable.
"We've already got people traveling through Georgia to get to Chattanooga and Samford," he said. "I looked it up and the most women's basketball players and the second-most men's basketball players on our rosters this year come from Georgia, which I hadn't suspected until we did the research."
Two Georgia schools, Mercer and Kennesaw State, are starting football programs and could be targets of the SoCon.
The NCAA deadline for schools moving from the Football Championship Subdivision to the FBS is June 1. Any school that moves up after that date won't be eligible for the postseason until after 2015-16, following the two-year transition.