LA CROSSE, Wis. -

The announcement of William Penn and Grand View leaving the Midwest Collegiate Conference wasn’t a big shock to Viterbo University Director of Athletics Barry Fried.

"It really didn't come as any surprise to us. They've been very transparent from the beginning."

Fried said Grand View and William Penn moving to the Heart of America Athletic Conference starting in 2015-2016 have been in the works for about a year now.

With their departure, the MCC goes down to only five members. One of the existing members, Viterbo, has gone to work trying to figure out what their future plans will be.

"Our president directed us to form a study group with different members of the university - myself, some of our coaches, some student representation, and other campus officials. And we're really looking at all the options to see what might be a good fit for us.

"Everything is on the board right now, it has to be. If you really are going to do a good search or a good study of it you have to look at all the options or else you are locking yourself into a box.

"We are one of only two NAIA schools in the state. So what our study group has been directed and asked to do is just look at all options that are on the table whether it's a reincarnation of our existing league members, looking at merging with another league. Just looking at all the options."

Fried was asked if that could mean possibly switching affiliation from the NAIA to NCAA.

"We're looking at any and all leagues and affiliations at this time with our study group. Just collecting data, seeing what schools are in our geographical footprint no matter what affiliation they are and just bouncing ideas off one another."

Whether staying in the MCC or making a major move Fried said he wants to move swiftly.

"We're not talking a year or two study group. We're talking three-four months.

“We understand it's important to do our due diligence, collect date quickly, explore our options, and try to come up with some recommendation to our president.

"We need to put ourselves in a position by that '15-'16 year where we know where we're going to be. That's definitely our long-term timeline."

Fried is optimistic wherever their landing spot is, the V-Hawks athletic department will be as strong as ever.

“You know I often believe with change comes opportunity. I really believe that. Stability is always good as well. But good things can come from change. Instead of looking at this through a negative lens, I really try to look at this as an opportunity for the future of Viterbo athletics."

Viterbo was one of the original six members of the MCC when the conference started up in 1988.