Atlantic Sun

Atlantic Sun Conference makes statement following NKU departure

Florida-Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Sun are in a bit of a strange spot. (USATSI)Florida Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Sun are in a precarious spot. (USATSI)

Over the weekend, Northern Kentucky decided to end its relationship with the Atlantic Sun Conference and move to the Horizon League, leaving the A-Sun with seven teams and questions about its future.

On Monday, the Atlantic Sun released a statement regarding its future in the NCAA:

We thank Northern Kentucky University for their contributions to the Atlantic Sun and wish them well.

In this unique period for higher education and intercollegiate athletics, it is our responsibility, with the full support of our Presidents Council, to continue the active dialogue in evolving a model that aligns the priorities and plans of our current and prospective members. That model reaffirms the primary focus of intercollegiate athletics to be on the student-athletes and their collegiate experience in pursuit of and concluding with a diploma.

Our membership action will continue to be centered on thoughtful, logical membership growth. We have been actively involved in discussions with a number of prospective member institutions. While no invitations to join our conference have been extended, we will provide updates as developments warrant over the coming weeks. 

We appreciate the support of our members and will further our presidential-led effort to build the best Atlantic Sun Conference going forward.

NCAA Rule Note
• NCAA rules require a multisport conference to maintain seven active members to qualify for an automatic bid in men’s and women’s basketball, and six active members for all other sports. The A-Sun’s seven members (FGCU , Jacksonville , Kennesaw State , Lipscomb , North Florida , USC Upstate and Stetson) currently eligible for NCAA postseason participation shall continue to be eligible for all NCAA postseason play, including automatic bids in all sports.

It’s a very precarious time for the league. It has had five departures since 2008, and added no new net members following Northern Kentucky’s exodus. If one more team decides to exit the league — which given its recent history, seems to be a possibility — the league’s NCAA tournament bid will come under review.

There has not been a seven-team league to receive an NCAA tournament bid in the 2000s, although some have played seasons with seven tournament-eligible teams (including the WAC last season). The last league to play a season with seven teams was the Great West, which ended up disbanding in early part of this decade.

It seems like the Atlantic Sun will actively pursue new members, which is a good sign. The league has been around since 1978 and had a team in the NCAA tournament for every season since 1981, so it would be strange to see a college basketball landscape without it.

Over the past three years, the A-Sun has given us memorable moments such as Florida Gulf Coast’s terrific run in 2013 and Mercer’s upset of Duke in 2014, which is the first time the league had ever won NCAA tournament games in back-to-back years.

Hopefully, it can get back on its feet, continue to grow, and create a sustainable environment for its membership schools.

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