Jamerious Borden, Correspondent
Jacksonville State will bring its conference affiliation close to home, with the Atlantic Sun Conference announcing Friday the Gamecocks will join beginning with the 2021-2022 athletic season.
After an 18-year stay in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Gamecocks will rejoin the ASUN, the league that was its first Division I conference home. The conference change takes effect July 1, 2021.
ASUN announced Friday an expansion that includes JSU, Eastern Kentucky, Central Arkansas and welcomes nine other teams making the conference total up to twelve teams.
“This is an exciting day for Jacksonville State University, for our student athletes, for our alumni and for our fans,” Jacksonville State President Don Killingsworth said. “When the opportunity to discuss reviewing our relationship with the ASUN Conference was presented to us, it was one we definitely were eager to explore, and we could not be more thrilled that it worked out the way it has and that Jacksonville State University will rejoin the conference that was so instrumental in our move to Division I over 25 year ago.”
The conference also announced that it plans to add FCS football to the league’s list of sponsored sports for the first time in the conference’s 43-year history.
The addition of football in the same conference gives the league something it did not have when JSU left to join the OVC in 2003, allowing the Gamecocks to play football in the same conference as its other sports. This will make ASUN the 15th NCAA Division I Conference to sponsor FCS Football.
“What a great day for Jacksonville State University and Gamecock Athletics,” JSU Athletics Director Greg Seitz said. “Last fall, the ASUN Conference reached out to us to gauge Jacksonville State’s interest in returning to the league that was our first conference home when we moved to Division I in 1995. When learning of ASUN’s plan to start football and the vision of Commissioner Ted Gumbert and the ASUN President’s Council to build the premiere football conference in the FCS from ground up , that was an opportunity that we as a University and Athletics Department wanted to be a part of.”
With the addition of Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State, the ASUN conference expands its geographic footprint to seven states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, featuring 12 of the top 80 media markets in the nation and seven in the top 50.