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EKU to join Atlantic Sun Conference for 2021-22 season; Colonels departing Ohio Valley Conference

Eastern Kentucky University and all 16 of its athletics teams will join the Atlantic Sun Conference on July 1, 2021, Vice President and Director of Athletics Matt Roan announced Friday.

All EKU teams will be immediately eligible for conference awards, postseason play and NCAA Tournament automatic bids. EKU is currently a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.

During its last full year of competition (2018-19), the Atlantic Sun Conference enjoyed its most successful postseason with 19 postseason wins. In addition, ASUN student-athletes have excelled academically. More than 70 percent of ASUN student-athletes earned a year-long 3.0 GPA each of the past three years.

The Atlantic Sun Conference will begin sponsorship of scholarship football in the Football Championship Subdivision. Through existing and developing conference partnerships, and future expansion plans, all ASUN FCS scholarship football programs will have immediate and ongoing annual access to automatic qualification (AQ) for the FCS playoffs.  However, ASUN policy will permit members to declare their own football status.

“Joining the ASUN Conference provides Eastern Kentucky University the opportunity to share our story with a rapidly growing, more geographically diverse audience,” President Dr. David McFaddin said. “It is an opportunity to expand our reach and make an impact in areas where we have not traditionally shared EKU’s story. Eastern Kentucky University is known as the ‘School of Opportunity.’

“Our membership with the ASUN is an opportunity to raise our athletic profile, enhance our alumni connections, expand our brand, and transform our student experience.  And, it’s an opportunity to join a conference that shares a bold and innovative vision for college athletics and student-athletes. It makes this an exciting day and a logical move for EKU.”

In talks with the ASUN, EKU recognized that the conference lives by its Beams of STUDENTS FIRST, RISE, CONNECT and IMPACT. These values drive conference decision-making and Eastern Kentucky shares that commitment to the ASUN Beams.

“What a seminal moment for our institution and athletics department, as we have no doubt this move will help positively impact our collective future,” said Roan. “With our STUDENTS FIRST in mind – as well as our coaches, staff, alumni, fans, supporters, partners, and prospective students and student-athletes – we are confident membership in the ASUN Conference will benefit all involved.  We will create new and exciting rivalries while striving to protect existing ones, make ourselves more visible in a fertile recruiting footprint, CONNECT as we travel to where many of our alumni are located, compete in destination locations, and introduce ourselves to future Colonels in a growing part of the country.

Matt Roan

“As we evaluated this move, enriching our student body’s Eastern experience, improving postseason access, limiting time away from campus, controlling expenses, enhancing and creating revenue generating opportunities, and controlling our future and being ambitious were all considered. EKU and the ASUN are the perfect match in this way.”

Membership in the ASUN Conference gives EKU a strong footprint in a region of the country that is growing. The ASUN has universities in two of the top 11 fastest growing states in the nation. The partnership will offer access to prospective students, alumni and donors. Nearly 100,000 Eastern Kentucky University alumni live in the ASUN footprint. Excellent media markets throughout the ASUN offer opportunities to reach these audiences.

In addition to EKU, Jacksonville State University and the University of Central Arkansas are also joining the ASUN Conference.  These three join Kennesaw State University and the University of North Alabama as scholarship FCS football members of the ASUN.

The primary focus of the next ASUN expansion phase will be to move to six football members that play scholarship FCS football.  This will allow the ASUN to qualify for an FCS playoff spot without relying on a conference partnership.

The addition of football brings total ASUN sponsored sports to 20. The ASUN entry into football sponsorship comes after deep analysis and critical evaluation.  The ASUN Presidents’ Council set forth a plan in November of 2019, and this bold expansion is a direct result of the Council’s vision and willingness to activate a bold and innovative plan.

All three schools – Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State – will receive immediate rights to ASUN voting on any policy going into effect after July 1, 2021.  After July 1, 2021, the expansion schools and their student-athletes enjoy all privileges of ASUN membership. The new members will participate fully in all ASUN regular season and postseason play as earned.

“Eastern Kentucky will hold a special place in the history of the ASUN Conference,” Atlantic Sun Conference Commissioner Ted Gumbart said. “Discussions about becoming partners began with a meeting that included the AD (Matt Roan), the interim president (David McFaddin) and the Chairman of the Board (Lewis Diaz). Deputy Commissioner Jerome Rodgers and I met with this trio privately about the ASUN plans to build. To build new partnerships. To build football. To build a new conference. To build a new approach to conference alignment. To build a better mousetrap for collegiate athletics. To build a more flexible and dynamic approach to satisfying institutional needs for football programs.

“The EKU leadership team has an intense focus on the value of athletics in the overall university plan.  The ASUN is pleased and proud that its vision and the EKU vision for the future of college athletics found enough common ground to bring about this partnership.  I know that both EKU and the ASUN will be stronger by joining together and EKU’s willingness to be a builder, not a follower, played a great role in the positive impact adding Eastern Kentucky University had on the ASUN Presidents’ Council decision to extend an invitation.”

From EKU and the Atlantic Sun Conference

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