New/Next School Speculation
I thought we might want to get the ball rolling on here with consolidating any rumors or speculation for who the ASUN will try to add to finish out the new conference. There seems to be increasing confidence that the next school(s?) will be announced at a February 23rd press conference the ASUN has already scheduled.
Things seem to be pretty quiet at the moment, so IF a new school is on board, they are keeping things hush-hush. I think we all assume Chattanooga is the #1 target, but even though I live here, I haven't heard a word of speculation. Though glancing through a Mocs forum seems to have most of their fans open to the idea of moving.
Personally I think we can rule out any additional schools from the Southland (though I haven't heard much talk of that anyway). Taking another from them would drop them to just 5 football-playing schools, and ASUN commissioner Ted Gumbart has said himself he doesn't want to poach another conference to the point they are below the NCAA threshold. The Big South and the OVC both have 7 teams with the departures of UNA, KSU, JSU, and EKU, so there is a possibility a school from one of those two could come. And of course the SoCon (Chattanooga's conference) is sitting at 9, so taking 2 from there can't be completely ruled out. Though the SoCon enjoys a higher level of "prestige" in the minds of many, for whatever it's worth, so there is thought that pulling schools from there will be much more difficult. Not to mention, they have a $1 million exit fee.
I will say a D2 school is possible if they are joined by another current FCS school. As UNA fans are very familiar with the D2 landscape, we are pretty confident the ONLY possibilities - schools that might have the resources to move up - are West Florida, Valdosta State, and West Georgia. Any of the three would be great additions, though UWF may have the most upside. Valdosta and UWG seem content to stay D2, though we know things can change.
Anyway - sorry for the lengthy first post, but I thought it would be good to go ahead and get this topic out there, since it is obviously driving most of the conversation at the moment. Let the speculation begin/continue...
I'm hoping for Chatty and/or WCU
FWIW, the UNA beat writer said on Twitter last night that there is no agreement in place for JSU/EKU/UCA to have WAC affiliation for this coming season, and it's not considered a "foreseeable option". What that says to me is, confidence is pretty high that a sixth school will be coming on board for 2021 and not 2022. But I could obviously be wrong.
I lean towards thinking the AQ isn't extremely important for 2021, anyway. With JSU, UCA, and KSU all being recent playoff teams, I think the conference winner, and possibly even 2nd place team, will make the playoffs as an at-large bid, even if the conference itself only has five teams.
I think UNA and KSU were always considered as ASun Football teams in the event the time ever came for the ASun to take on that sport. It happened sooner than everyone thought it would. The Big South provided a good temporary home for the ASun Two whilst the ASun Two helped the Big South with some needed stability further strengthened by the additions of NCAT and Robert Morris. All that to say the ASun Two will not be leaving the Big South in the lurch by this move. The ASun and Big South have been good partners and I do not see the ASun pursuing any teams from the Big South. I think the preference, now, is a team(s) from the SoCon. We all know the candidates. I think when Ted Talks about not wanting to take another conference below it's AQ level, he means it. He is trying to do a lot of innovative things and will need the votes and support of other conferences along the way.
Should we end up with 5, for now, we will still have a good season with a Big South/ASun donnybrook. It's all good and we are not sitting around wishing for good things. I appreciate the "going for it" attitude.
I believe that the news on Friday that the ASUN will again sponsor men's lacrosse suggests that the 6th football school will be coming from the SoCon. Although this might not be intuitive, but the ASUN sponsoring this sport helps the SoCon which also sponsors it. The membership of both conferences reveals a conscious plan that the 2 conferences collaborated on.
Example, the new ASUN conference lacrosse has 6 teams, Air Force, Bellarmine, Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, Robert Morris, and Utah. While none of these schools were full members of the SoCon, many are playing with the SoCon this year. Every one of these schools is an outlier for SoCon lacrosse.
Next year's SoCon lacrosse will have Hampton, High Point, Jacksonville (!), Mercer, Richmond, and VMI.
If a current SoCon school becomes the ASUN's 6th football member, the deal including the exit fee, has already been negotiated, and is just awaiting final confirmation. My guess is that the 6th school will be Tennessee-Chattanooga.