The ASUN conference is growing into a force to be reckoned with, and it’s coming mostly at the expense of the Ohio Valley Conference.
On Thursday, Matt Brown of Extra Points reported that Austin Peay is set to leave the OVC for the ASUN, with an announcement expected as early as Monday.
An athletics update is on the agenda for Austin Peay’s board of trustees meeting on Friday.
The move would make APSU the third OVC program to jump ship for the ASUN, joining Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky University, which officially joined the conference on July 1.
Currently, five ASUN schools — Bellarmine, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Lipscomb and North Florida — don’t have a football program. In adding EKU, Jacksonville State and Central Arkansas, the ASUN will reach its stated priority of fielding a six-team football conference with Austin Peay serving as the sixth member.
The ASUN currently partners with the Western Athletic Conference for football, with the winner of the division earning an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.
Should Austin Peay leave, the OVC would be on shaky ground. Belmont and Murray State have long been coveted by the Missouri Valley Conference, and with the Govs bolting to the ASUN, it might not be long before the Bruins and Racers are out the door.
If Austin Peay and Murray State leave, the OVC would be left with only five football programs: Eastern Illinois, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and UT-Martin.
It’s unclear where TSU stands in the thick of things. A case could be made for the Tigers staying put and reaping the benefits of a weakened conference, provided the OVC adds a sixth football program, and maybe exploring the possibility of adding a few more HBCU games to its schedule.
“We’ve been very, very thoughtful in our approach to membership,” OVC commissioner Beth DeBauche said at OVC Media Days in July. “At 10 members with seven playing (football), we are a good and strong league…We will be very thoughtful in our approach to membership.
“As we look to membership, and we will look to membership, and we will absolutely consider growth, the (university) presidents will be very thoughtful to make decisions that make sense for this conference that can last and sustain.”
Chattanooga, East Tennessee State and Western Illinois are rumored candidates for potential OVC expansion.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_