Sources: Austin Peay Likely to Join ASUN, perhaps as soon as next week
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Normally, this newsletter publishes four days a week. But thanks to some late breaking conference realignment news, I wanted to share some updates with all of you as soon as I got the chance.
Multiple industry sources tell Extra Points that Austin Peay State University is expected to leave the Ohio Valley Conference and join the ASUN in all sports. APSU's Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet tomorrow, and while nothing is official and guaranteed until all the documents are signed, the board is expected to support the move. Industry sources tell me Austin Peay could officially announce the move as early as next Monday.
What does that mean for the ASUN?
With the addition of APSU, the ASUN will have six FCS football-playing institutions: Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Kennesaw State, Central Arkansas and North Alabama. The league would also have 13 total full members.
I'm told that the ASUN's hope is for APSU to join the league in all sports in 2022. I'm told that the expectation is that APSU's addition will lead to the sunsetting of the current WAC-ASUN "AQ7" schedule agreement, although there may be potential interest on both sides to reconfigure the arrangement to allow for compelling non-conference games.
I am also told that with this addition, it is unlikely that the ASUN will proactively seek to expand and add more schools, although given how quickly alignments are changing in college sports, nothing is ever completely off the table.
Update: 9/17, 9:01 AM CT
Earlier this morning, Pete Thamel of Yahoo! reported the following:
Source: After adding Austin Peay, the ASUN is exploring more schools. They are vetting Valdosta State, West Georgia, Lincoln Memorial (TN) and Queens University (NC). They could add a mix of football and non-football schools to eventually reach 16 schools.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel)
Sep 17, 2021
I asked around, and can confirm that the ASUN has engaged in vetting with Queens University (a non-FB playing D-II school in Charlotte) and Valdosta State. I was also told that another school on the ASUN radar is West Florida, a D-II conference-mate of Valdosta State and West Georgia. Before COVID, the ASUN had conversations with some of these programs and initially planned on looking at D-II schools to reach their original goal of a 20-team league, but COVID and budget crunches changed those plans in the short term.
There's no immediate timetable for adding any D-II callups, and ASUN administrators will want to monitor the realignment landscape, to see if other potential FCS options present themselves.
What does this mean for the OVC?
With APSU's departure. The OVC will drop to just six FCS-football playing members: Tennessee-Martin, Murray State, SEMO, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, and Eastern Illinois. There is concern among some OVC athletic directors that after losing three schools over the last yer (Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State were former OVC members), other OVC schools could potentially be poaching targets for other conferences.
Update: 9/17 9:01 AM. In fact, I was told this was one of the reasons APSU looked at leaving the OVC to begin with, as their leadership became less confident in the long term stability of the OVC and their ability to recruit other institutions to replace EKU and JSU.
My sources believe that the OVC will attempt to expediate the process of adding another football playing institution, and that the conference already has a target school in mind. The league is also expected to entertain other potential conference realignment options, including potentially adding non-football sponsoring institutions, if the right opportunity presented itself.
Are there other realignment moves coming?
Probably. As I've written on Extra Points several times, there were strong reasons for FCS and non-football D-I institutions to consider different conference homes well before COVID hit, and now that leagues are regaining their operational capacity to think longer term, many schools are revisiting conversations they started back in 2018. Schools that do not have the luxury of a $50 million TV contract are looking for ways to save money on travel, sell more tickets, engage fans and boosters, and create stronger institutional fits between conference-mates.
With additional realignment very likely to impact Conference USA, the Sun Belt, AAC and other FBS conferences, there's always the potential for trickle-down moves to impact not just other FCS conferences, but D-I leagues without football.
With the Southland looking to recruit additional institutions, along with the OVC, potentially the WAC, and others, additional moves may very well be coming, and soon.
I'll share other information as soon as I have it.
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I'll see y'all next week.