The loss of seven members from the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference will not be the demise of the NCAA Division III league, of which Colorado College remains a member, its commissioner stressed Wednesday. The league will aggressively pursue adding new members immediately.

“I like challenges and I like the one before us,” Dwayne Hanberry said. “Some say this will be the death of the SCAC. I want to prove them wrong.”

As expected, seven schools – Birmingham-Southern, Centre, Hendrix, Millsaps, Oglethorpe, Rhodes and Sewanee: University of the South – announced they will leave the SCAC on July 1, 2012 to form a southeastern league which will include Berry College (Ga.).

That leaves Colorado College and four Texas schools – Austin, Dallas (starting this fall), Southwestern and Trinity – remaining for the 2012-13 season in the SCAC, which was founded in 1962 by some of the defectors. The departures, which were spurred by a desire to cut travel costs, will not affect the upcoming school year.

“I’m obviously a bit disappointed in the league members who have chosen to leave the SCAC, however, I understand that they are doing what they believe is in the best interest of their institutions,” CC athletic director Ken Ralph said.

The SCAC plans an aggressive approach to grow to eight to 10 schools. The conference was contacted informally by several schools, mostly in the West, before Tuesday.

“The only school that has expressed an interest through us is Westminster College in Salt Lake City,” Ralph said. “I know several of the Texas schools have received calls from potential new members.”

Westminster is the southernmost school in the nine-member NAIA Frontier Conference, which is based in Montana. Such a move would require the Griffins to drop athletic scholarships, which may offset increased travel costs.

With an enrollment of 3,000, Westminster would fit into the conference’s profile: small, private schools with good academics looking for a competitive league.

Hanberry plans to pursue other NAIA and NCAA schools that fit into that mold.

“We’re not going to let geography hold us back,” said Hanberry, an Oglethorpe alumnus who turned down an offer to lead the as-yet-unnamed new league. “People think having a conference in three time zones will no longer work. I beg to differ. We’ve gone through membership changes before. This reincarnation will make us even stronger.”

CC joined the SCAC in 2006 in some sports, expanding to compete in all in 2--7, except its Division I women’s soccer and men’s hockey teams.