News of a revamped ASUN Conference continues to leak across the mid-major world. Earlier this month, Central Arkansas’ Athletic Director announced the Bears would leave the Southland Conference to join the ASUN beginning with the 2021-22 athletic season. He also hinted at as many as three other schools to join UCA in a revamped ASUN.
The rumored additions of Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State continue to grow legs. On Monday, news leaked from EKU of a map of the new look ASUN including Central Arkansas, EKU, and Jacksonville State. This news is expected to be formally announced in the next few weeks. It would bring the ASUN from its current 9 all-sport members to 12, and push the ASUN much closer to sponsoring a full scholarship FCS football league.
According to this, these three rumored institutions are set to join the ASUN on July 1, 2021 and will begin competing in all sports during the 2021-22 academic year. This new look league will have five schools which sponsor scholarship FCS football – the three newcomers as well as Kennesaw State and North Alabama, and the ASUN plans on launching an FCS scholarship football conference. Liberty, as an FBS Independent, and Stetson, as a non-scholarship Pioneer Football League member, will not participate in this new FCS league.
The ASUN football conference will pursue “immediate and ongoing annual access to automatic qualification to the FCS playoffs.” The FCS requires six football members that play scholarship FCS football. Currently, the ASUN partners with the Big South to allow its football playing members a path to the FCS playoffs. The information on the now deleted EKU page indicates the ASUN fully intends on pursuing a sixth member. Chattanooga and Austin Peay have been rumored possibilities.
“With 12 members, the ASUN will continue divisional play in 2021-22,” it states on the now deleted EKU page. The ASUN has gone to North and South divisions for sports this spring to reduce travel and due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This spring, for example, Liberty baseball will compete in the North Division of the ASUN alongside Bellarmine, Lipscomb, North Alabama, and Kennesaw State. This will now transition to men’s and women’s basketball with two six-team divisions.
The full list of the new 12-member ASUN coming this July:
University of Central Arkansas
Eastern Kentucky University
Florida Gulf Coast University
Jacksonville State University
Kennesaw State University
University of North Alabama
University of North Florida
The question we all ask, what does this mean for Liberty, and, specifically, Liberty football and men’s basketball?
For football, not much. The Flames will continue to operate as an FBS Independent and this new FCS football conference will not affect Liberty football. There have been rumblings of this ASUN football conference looking to make the jump as a group to the FBS and the ASUN then forcing Liberty to join the conference at that point. The likelihood of the ASUN being able to jump as a group to the FBS is very unlikely and should not be a cause for worry for Liberty fans at this point.
For men’s basketball, these additions immediately improve the ASUN Conference. If Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State were in the ASUN this season, they would rank 2nd and 3rd in the league, according to the most recent NET rankings. Eastern Kentucky is currently ranked No. 127 and are 13-2 overall and 7-1 in the OVC, while Jacksonville State is ranked No. 176 and is 10-5 overall and 6-3 in the OVC. The Flames are currently the highest ranked team in the ASUN at No. 86 while Bellarmine trails Liberty at No. 203.