Eastern Kentucky University’s move to the ASUN Conference was made official on Jan. 29 but with help from an open records request more details about the move effective July 1 were discovered.
According to the ASUN member agreement, EKU Athletics has paid a non-refundable application fee of $5,000 to the conference and understands, acknowledges, and agrees that in consideration of being accepted as a member of the conference, it shall also pay the buy-in fee. This amount will be paid in four equal installments of $1,250 due by Sept. 1 of 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024.
Along with this move to the ASUN, EKU has agreed to abide by the rules and follow them under the member agreement. Under the agreement, EKU will consult with the conference about any other agreements that may cause conflict in regards to multimedia. As a member of the ASUN, EKU has agreed to represent the conference by following any laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. EKU will provide a team to participate in a full schedule and tournament competition. Failure for EKU to comply by the agreement will result in disciplinary action from the conference.
EKU was officially invited to the ASUN Conference on Dec. 3.
“Joining the ASUN Conference provides Eastern Kentucky University the opportunity to share our story with a rapidly growing, more geographically diverse audience,” President David McFaddin said during a press conference on Jan. 29.
McFaddin continued, “It is an opportunity to expand our reach and make an impact in areas where we have not traditionally shared EKU’s story. Eastern Kentucky University is known as the ‘school of opportunity.’ Our membership with the ASUN is an opportunity to raise our athletic profile, enhance our alumni connections, expand our brand and transform our student experience. And it's an opportunity to join a conference that shares a bold and innovative vision for college athletics and student-athletes. It makes this an exciting day and a logical move for EKU.”
EKU will be required to pay annual dues in the total amount of $55,000. This amount will be paid in two installments. All members of the conference will pay $15,000 and football members will pay an additional $40,000 to help launch the ASUN football league.
The ASUN conference and the Western Athletic Conference have agreed on a one year schedule for the 2021 fall season, which will feature EKU football. It will be known as the ASUN-WAC Challenge and include four WAC members and three ASUN members. The teams will join the 2021 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Once the single rounds are finished, the team with the highest percent will qualify for the FCS Playoffs.
The move to the ASUN Conference could also bring more sports to EKU. The addition of football brings the total of ASUN sponsored sports to 20.
Currently, EKU only sponsors 16 sports which includes men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, football, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s track and field (indoor and outdoor), beach volleyball, softball, and women’s volleyball.
“Just like conference affiliation, I think the programs that we sponsor [are] something that’s always under consideration or under evaluation,” director of athletics Matt Roan said. “Our focus right now is to give the 16 [sports] that we have and I’m looking out at them [the coaches], and they probably want to hear me say this, but it’s giving every single one of these head coaches the resources that they need to be successful.”
EKU cut the men’s and women’s tennis teams in 2018. Men’s soccer is also not a part of EKU athletics at this time, but has a chance of being added due to the facilities already in place.
Roan continued, “When we think that we have done that comfortably again in the spirit of EKU as a school of opportunity, if adding sports or reinstating sports would provide opportunities for young men and young women to have access and opportunity here at EKU, that’s something we’ll evaluate down the line.”
Along with the move to a new conference, EKU will be faced with another challenge, travel. Only two ASUN schools are within 325 miles of EKU’s campus, Bellarmine and Lipscomb. Four of EKU’s conference opponents are in Florida. Those teams include Stetson, North Florida, Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville University.
For a one-way trip to Florida Gulf Coast in Ft. Myers, Fla., EKU will travel 944 miles. On average, the Colonels will be traveling 497 miles one-way.
Even with the move to the ASUN, EKU coaches and Roan are still hopeful to play in-state schools and keep rivalries alive like Morehead State and Murray State.
“The work starts now, and we’re excited to rise with the ASUN,” Roan said.