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Atlantic Sun expected to develop football league

By CRAIG HALEY

Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

(Stats Perform) - Credibility will be built in if a news conference scheduled by the Atlantic Sun Conference on Friday results in the expected announcement of a future FCS scholarship football league.

Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State from the Ohio Valley Conference and Central Arkansas from the Southland Conference are primed to join the ASUN on July 1 and be part of the new football league with Kennesaw State and North Alabama, who are already members of the southeast conference, but play football as associate members of the Big South Conference.

Whether a working agreement between the two conferences remains this fall is expected to be part of the announcement.

Eastern Kentucky was a founding member of the OVC in 1948 and has won the most conference titles (21), while Jacksonville State has captured the most OVC titles (eight) since joining the conference in 2003. Central Arkansas joined the Southland in 2006 and has since won four conference titles.

All three programs have won national championships: Eastern Kentucky in the FCS in 1979 and '82, Jacksonville State in Division II in 1992, and Central Arkansas on the NAIA level in 1984, '85 and '91.

For Jacksonville State, it would be a return to the ASUN, where the Gamecocks played in sports other than football from 1995-2003.

The three additions would bring the ASUN to 12 members, but a new football conference could be only five deep at the start because Liberty plays on the FBS level, Stetson will remain in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, and Bellarmine, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Lipscomb, and North Florida do not sponsor the sport.

ASUN commissioner Ted Gumbart and his staff are believed to be actively seeking to increase membership. The NCAA requires an FCS conference to have six members for its champion to receive an automatic bid to the national playoffs.

Updated January 28, 2021

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