Big South and ASUN Conference Establish FCS Membership Partnership

Big South Teleconference Interview

LakePoint, Ga. -
The Big South Conference and ASUN Conference (ASUN) announced today a unique FCS member partnership that will strengthen both leagues and strategically reinforce the future of Big South football. The partnership, which takes effect immediately, guarantees a football "home" within the Big South Conference for ASUN members that play scholarship football.

Under the arrangement, current or future ASUN Conference members that sponsor scholarship football will automatically be admitted as associate football members into the Big South Conference, so long as they are based in a pre-determined geographical footprint that spans the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.

 

The Big South Conference currently has six football-playing programs, which is the minimum to maintain automatic qualification into the FCS Playoffs. Two of the six members -- Kennesaw State University in Georgia and Monmouth University in New Jersey, are associate members, while the remaining four schools are already full-time Big South members: Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina, Charleston Southern University and Presbyterian College in South Carolina, and Liberty University in Virginia. In addition, any current or future Big South member that adds scholarship football will be automatically part of the conference's football program.

"The Big South Conference believes that the future of Division I athletics, including FCS football, lies in collaboration -- collaboration between conferences, institutions, and leadership," stated Big South Commissioner Kyle B. Kallander. "This partnership with the ASUN Conference is an example of how collaboration can benefit both parties to ensure successful and competitive opportunities for our student-athletes. We are extremely grateful to ASUN Commissioner Ted Gumbart for his leadership, and the members of the ASUN for their cooperation and foresight, in developing this partnership. Big South football has achieved enormous success in the short 15 years it has been in existence. This collaboration with the ASUN will only ensure that that success will continue and grow."

"On behalf of the Big South Conference, I want to say how excited we are about this partnership with our friends in the ASUN Conference," added Gardner-Webb University President Dr. Frank Bonner. "This is an innovative arrangement between two great conferences that will strengthen both, advance the values that we share, strengthen our football programs, and enhance our competitiveness. I commend all who had a part in developing this partnership, especially our Commissioners, Ted Gumbart and Kyle Kallander."

"This represents a tremendous step for all parties involved, and primarily for the student- athletes who participate in Big South Football," commented ASUN Commissioner Ted Gumbart. "The ASUN membership and I extend our thanks and compliments to Big South Commissioner Kyle Kallander for his vision in the future development of Big South Football. He and the Big South leadership have done an outstanding job in building an extremely accomplished and competitive league. The Big South has received multiple postseason berths, earned multiple postseason wins and had many postseason hosting opportunities for its football members. We plan to contribute strongly and significantly to the continued growth of our joint football league and look forward to enhancing the winning tradition of Big South Football."

"This agreement between our two conferences is a breakthrough collaboration for both organizations," said Jacksonville University President Tim Cost, Chairman of the ASUN Presidents' Council. "Our ability to work together closely to increase student-athlete opportunities and build strong and stable futures will expand our thinking about athletics and education and how they support each other. Everyone held the right priority in highest regard: the overall success of our collegiate student-athletes."

ABOUT THE ASUN CONFERENCE (ASUNsports.org)
The ASUN Conference is a NCAA Division I league with eight member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The ASUN meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the ASUN footprint reaches into seven of the top 50 media markets in the nation. The ASUN includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

ABOUT BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE FOOTBALL (BigSouthSports.com football page)
The Big South Conference is in its 15th season of football in 2016 and has been a mainstay on the FCS national landscape since receiving an automatic bid in 2010. The league has made three consecutive quarterfinal appearances in the FCS playoffs, had the nation's No. 1-ranked program in 2014 and 2015, and has collected five wins over FBS opponents. In addition, a Big South football member has been nationally-ranked in the Top 25 polls for the last 67 consecutive weeks – including inside the Top 10 in 40 of the last 42 weeks. A total of 12 former Big South student-athletes appeared on NFL rosters to start the 2016 campaign, including Pro Bowlers Justin Bethel, Mike Tolbert and Josh Norman.

ABOUT THE BIG SOUTH-ASUN FCS MEMBER PARTNERSHIP

What are the main advantages to the Big South?
This partnership increases stability, solidifying Kennesaw State's membership, and opens expansion possibilities that would allow growth in Big South football without stretching the boundaries and resources of the Big South in every sport. Further, it positions the Big South as the destination league for three Pioneer League football teams if they ever determine that scholarship football would be a productive move for the institution. Adding stability and flexibility at the same time makes this agreement a solid move for the Big South.

What are the main advantages to the ASUN?
This partnership increases stability, with ASUN membership knowing there is a permanent football home for any institution that has scholarship football. It helps Kennesaw State by providing certainty to its existing football relationship, it provides avenues of growth for Stetson and Jacksonville if and when they choose to pursue scholarship football, and it provides an automatic home for any ASUN member that would entertain a football program in the future, such as North Florida and FGCU, both of which have done studies and concluded that now is just not the time for football at those institutions. It also opens possibilities that couldn't previously be entertained, such as adding an institution that already competes in scholarship football.

Does this mean that football-playing programs at Campbell, Stetson and Jacksonville must join Big South Football?
No. Campbell, Stetson and Jacksonville are currently non-scholarship football programs. They have no obligation to change their current status as Pioneer Football League members. This agreement does, however, ensure that these ASUN institutions as well as Campbell -- should they elect to begin participation in scholarship football sometime in the future -- will have a guaranteed conference home as they would automatically become members of Big South Football.

Can the Big South and the ASUN both add new members that play football?
Yes. While both conferences have a strong and stable core membership, both are interested in growing the strength of Big South Football. The Big South has the ability to add associate members or full members that participate in football. Now the ASUN can also add members to Big South Football if they are a member of the ASUN.

Will ASUN schools that play scholarship football have the same conference benefits as Big South Conference members?
Yes. All football members of the Big South will share the same scheduling, AQ eligibility and promotional opportunities.

Will there be a change in the name for Big South Conference football?
No. The agreement relates only to the membership access and commitments for ASUN scholarship football programs.

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