NASHVILLE, JAN. 9 -- Virginia Tech Athletic Director David Braine said today the school will remain in the Metro Conference if the conference is allowed to keep its automatic bid to the men's basketball tournament despite defections that are set to reduce it to four members.

"We hope to stay in the Metro," Braine said at the NCAA convention. "If it keeps the automatic bid, we will stay and work on finding new members."

Keeping the bid is viewed as the key to the Metro's ability to at least partially replace Florida State, which is going to the Atlantic Coast Conference; South Carolina, which is going to the Southeastern Conference; and Cincinnati and Memphis State, which are going to the newly formed Great Midwest Conference.

A special NCAA committee, chaired by ACC Commissioner Gene Corrigan, is examining the Metro's situation, which is not unique in this day of conference expansion. A decision is expected by the end of January, Braine said.

If the Metro is granted the exception, South Florida and North Carolina-Charlotte are seen as possible additions that will bring it up to the six-school minimum currently required for an automatic tournament bid.

The Division I membership approved a potentially significant change in the scheduling requirements for conferences that have automatic bids to the men's basketball tournament.

Under current rules, in order for conferences to qualify for an automatic bid, they must conduct a double round-robin regular season schedule -- that is, one in which each team must play all the others twice. There is an exception for conferences with 12 or more teams that allows them to split into two divisions, and conduct double round-robins in each division and a single round-robin of interdivision games.

However, beginning with the 1991-92 season, conferences will have the option of conducting a double round-robin conference schedule or a 14-game conference schedule of any type. This is important as conferences expand in size but still try to give their schools some flexibility in scheduling nonconference games. For example, with the addition of Penn State, Big Ten teams would have to play 20 of their 27 games against conference opponents.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who also heads the men's basketball committee, said the Big Ten would "examine its options" with regard to future conference schedules, but that the new rule would not lead to a Big Ten postseason tournament.