Eastern Kentucky to join Atlantic Sun Conference

EKU is leaving the Ohio Valley Conference, Colonels were a founding member of the OVC in 1948

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RICHMOND, Ky. (EKU Athletics) – Eastern Kentucky University and all 16 of its athletics teams will join the ASUN Conference on July 1, 2021, Vice President and Director of Athletics Matt Roan announced today.

All EKU teams will be immediately eligible for conference awards, postseason play and NCAA Tournament automatic bids.

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During its last full year of competition (2018-19), the ASUN 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.

ASUN institutions have consistently competed at high level on the national stage. ASUN men’s basketball teams combined for six postseason wins in 2019 and a trip to the NIT finals, women’s basketball teams have consistently earned top-12 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, baseball teams have advanced to NCAA Super Regionals twice in the last six years, cross country teams have combined for 27 top-10 NCAA regional performances since 2010, soccer teams have multiple NCAA Tournament match wins since 2015, softball teams have consistently won NCAA Tournament games for more than 20 years, volleyball teams earned a NCAA Tournament match victory in 2018 and had two postseason wins in 2019, track & field athletes regularly compete in NCAA Championships and won a national title in 2019, and the ASUN has consistently been a NCAA Golf Regional multi-bid league for 20 years.

The ASUN will begin sponsorship of scholarship football in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). 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 T. 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. 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,” ASUN 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.”

About Eastern Kentucky University
EKU has been chosen as one of “America’s Top Colleges” by Forbes for 12 consecutive years and ranked in the top tier of Southern regional universities by U.S. News & World Report for 11 consecutive years. Eastern was named a “Best Bang for the Buck” college by Washington Monthly, a listing of schools “that help non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices.” EKU is consistently placed in the top 10 percent of public universities in the nation and number one in Kentucky in “Military Times: Best for Vets” rankings.

About the ASUN Conference
The ASUN Conference is the only NCAA Division I conference headquartered in Atlanta, our footprint’s primary media, sports, business, transportation and cultural hub. The ASUN boasts a membership of institutions that share visionary leadership, bold ambition and creative innovation. As a nimble adaptive conference, unafraid to blaze a national pathway for better service to our student-athletes, teams, and institutions, the ASUN has a proud history of firsts, national academic and athletic achievements and a conference culture that walks the walk with its four ASUN Beams. Students First! Rise. Connect. Impact. The ASUN includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Bellarmine University, Eastern Kentucky University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville State University, Kennesaw State University, Liberty University, Lipscomb University, University of Central Arkansas, University of North Alabama, University of North Florida and Stetson University.

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com