You are right about Tarleton coming out of left field. With the basketball year that the CC-Islanders had, you would think that would increase interest, but with the Southland being a football-oriented conference, Tarleton may knock Corpus out of a Southland spot. Central Arkansas seems a sure bet. It probably helps Tartleton that they just made the Elite Eight basketball tournament in Division II.
Here was a Caller article on the situation:
Race heats up for spot in growing Southland
March 8, 2005
Think of it as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's own final four.
The school was one of four to send letters of interest to the Southland Conference for potential membership. That the Islanders, Texas-Pan American and Division II Central Arkansas sent letters was not a surprise, but the fourth school to show interest was Division II Tarleton State, a member of the Lone Star Conference.
Conference commissioner Tom Burnett said the league presidents probably will meet sometime next week to review the letters. After that, there could be presentations by the schools, followed by campus visits by Southland officials.
There is no set timetable for announcing expansion, or the teams that might be invited. Each conference member will get one vote on each applicant.
Absent from the list was Centenary, which appears content to stay in the Mid-Continent Conference. Centenary twice before has applied and been turned down by the Southland, including once after leaving the old Trans-America Athletic Conference - which led to Centenary's prolonged independent status.
Burnett, however, said the March 1 deadline to send in letters of interest was "not set in concrete."
The Division II schools, both of which field football programs, have a deadline to declare the intent to move from Division II to Division I. Burnett said it was likely the schools would know their status with the Southland before a division-change declaration has to be made.
Islanders athletic director Dan Viola said joining the Southland would not be a problem, even though the softball team is an affiliate member of the Big South Conference. In the fall, the university and the conference signed an extension to have softball stay in the Big South through the 2007 season.
"My understanding is that if we were invited to join another conference, we would be let out (of the extension) if we needed it," Viola said.
Big South commissioner Kyle Kallander said there was "no escape clause, per se" but he understood the priorities of A&M-Corpus Christi if it was invited to join another conference.