(Stats Perform) - The ASUN Conference announced the formation of a new FCS scholarship league on Friday, and it may follow up with a quick audible.
The southeast-based ASUN will add three new members as of July 1, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State in a move from the Ohio Valley Conference and Central Arkansas from the Southland Conference. Their traditional-rich football teams are joining existing ASUN members Kennesaw State and North Alabama, who play the sport as associate members of the Big South Conference, in the new FCS league, but the start may be delayed until 2022, depending on schedules and scenarios both within and outside the conference.
Neither the ASUN nor the Western Athletic Conference, which two weeks announced it would form an FCS league this year, are at the NCAA minimum of six eligible schools for an automatic qualifying bid to the FCS playoffs. Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State are considering playing this fall as WAC associate members in football, which would make that conference eligible for an AQ, and Kennesaw State and North Alabama may remain in the Big South, which has an AQ, through the 2021 season.
The fall scenarios are expected to be announced at an ASUN news conference on Feb. 23 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
""What options we will deploy will be based on what is the best for those five schools," ASUN commissioner Ted Gumbart said.
"They're all being still looked at," he added. "In any case, we're going to print ASUN standings with five schools and pick a player of the week and promote ASUN football, and all of those programs will have the ASUN logo on the field. There will be a little bit of a transition to protect schedules and protect AQ, but we're really pleased that we have great partners that are willing to work with us."
The three additions to the ASUN will bring it to 12 members, but the new football conference is only five deep because Liberty plays on the FBS level, Stetson is remaining in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, and Bellarmine, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Lipscomb, and North Florida do not sponsor the sport.
The FCS level will rise to 15 leagues with the WAC and ASUN. Further expansion is expected in both conferences, with Gumbart saying his new FCS league is "100 percent" committed to a 2022 start if not this year.
About three-quarters of the 127 overall FCS programs are moving toward a spring season after all conferences postponed schedules this past fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jacksonville State and Kennesaw State will have spring seasons, but Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky and North Alabama will not compete again until the fall season.