Just weeks after the WAC announced its formation of a new FCS conference, the ASUN Conference has made it official that it will be adding an FCS league as well. Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, and Central Arkansas are joining the conference starting with the 2021-22 season.
The ASUN football conference now has five teams.
Kennesaw State — Currently plays its sports in the ASUN and plays football in the Big South
North Alabama — Currently plays its sports in the ASUN and plays football in the Big South
Jacksonville State — Coming from the Ohio Valley Conference
Eastern Kentucky — Moving from the Ohio Valley Conference
Central Arkansas — Coming from the Southland Conference
Stetson and Liberty play their sports in the ASUN and also sponsor football. Stetson will remain a member of the Pioneer Football League, and Liberty is an FBS independent.
An FCS conference needs six teams to have an auto-bid in the FCS playoffs. In an FAQ, the ASUN states, “Through our existing and developing conference partnerships, and future expansion plans, all ASUN FCS scholarship football schools will have immediate and ongoing annual access to automatic qualification (AQ) the FCS playoffs.”
However, later on, the FAQ says, “The primary focus of our next expansion phase will be to move to six (6) 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 ASUN intends to continue its conference partnerships in any case, but reaching a sixth football member is first.”
Regarding the “conference partnership,” reports indicate the ASUN and WAC could form a partnership for the 2021 fall season only. In this scenario, UCA, EKU, and JSU would play a schedule in the newly-formed WAC, which would give the WAC enough teams to earn AQ status. North Alabama and Kennesaw State would stay in the Big South in 2021.
This scenario would allow the ASUN to find a sixth team for 2022 and have enough teams to get an auto-bid while giving the WAC enough teams for a 2021 auto-bid. The WAC will be a seven-team conference, but Southern Utah isn’t joining until 2022, and Tarleton State and Dixie State are still transitioning to Division I.
Essentially, an ASUN-WAC partnership, while it hasn’t been made official or confirmed yet, would allow all of these teams switching conferences to play in a league with an auto-bid for the 2021 fall season.
ASUN commissioner Ted Gumbart says details regarding AQ affiliations will be announced on Feb. 23.
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Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.