Courtesy: Atlantic Sun Conference
LakePoint, Ga. – The ASUN Conference announced three new affiliate members for the sport of beach volleyball, expanding the league to 10 members beginning with the 2019 season. Austin Peay, Jacksonville State and Morehead State will join the ASUN, after playing the past several seasons as independent programs in the NCAA.
The ASUN Conference was the first NCAA Division I Conference to sponsor Beach Volleyball back in 2012 and has continued to be at the forefront of the growth in the sport. Beach Volleyball has seen a steady growth over the past few years with now 69 institutions sponsoring the sport.
Beach volleyball became the 90th championship sponsored by the NCAA in 2016 after being officially recognized as an NCAA sport for 2011-12. The NCAA does not currently offer automatic qualification (AQ) into the beach volleyball championship for conference winners, but the ASUN will be in position to qualify for an AQ should they be offered in the future. Beach volleyball student-athletes from Austin Peay, Jacksonville State and Morehead State will now be able to compete for conference championships, as well as athletic and academic awards.
“We are proud to continue the ASUN Conference’s leadership position in beach volleyball,” said ASUN Commissioner Ted Gumbart. “As the first conference to sponsor beach volleyball, we are proud to continue its growth with the additions of Austin Peay, Jacksonville State and Morehead State. The ASUN Beams focus on STUDENTS FIRST, and this announcement allows us to provide expanded opportunities for many new ASUN student-athletes. As we CONNECT with these new affiliates, we continue our positive IMPACT on beach volleyball, regionally and nationally; as beach volleyball continues to be a sport on the RISE, the ASUN continues to lead the way.”
Morehead State’s Athletic Director Brian Hutchinson expressed his excitement in joining the ASUN Conference. “We are very excited to join the participating members of the Atlantic Sun Conference and with our current OVC members, Austin Peay and Jacksonville State, as beach volleyball conference members. It is critically important that we provide for conference championship opportunities for all our student-athletes and this one fits us well. We look forward to playing a full conference schedule next season and hope to develop our niche in the league moving forward as this program continues to grow and develop.”
Austin Peay introduced beach volleyball as its 16th intercollegiate sport back on May 5th, 2016. The Governors opened their inaugural beach volleyball campaign in the Spring of 2017 with head coach Taylor Mott being at the helm from the start of the program.
“We are excited to have a conference home for our beach volleyball team. It is tough to try and compete at the highest level when you do not have an end of season conference tournament to participate in,” Mott said. “We are grateful the ASUN Conference has allowed us to become a part of their outstanding and reputable organization. We look forward to competing and representing the conference to the best of our ability.”
Jacksonville State has featured a beach volleyball program since the Spring of 2016, when the sports became the 17th varsity sport on the Gamecock campus. Head Coach Terry Gamble has led the program from the beginning and looks forward to competing in the ASUN Conference.
“I’m excited to be a part of the ASUN for beach volleyball. I think it is a great opportunity for my players, JSU, and the other two schools also joining the conference from the Ohio Valley Conference.” Gamble added, “beach volleyball is becoming an extremely popular sport, and it’s a big step forward for our program to be part of an established beach conference such as the ASUN.”
The Morehead State Eagles are under the guidance of head coach Jaime Gordon, who entered his 15th overall season at Morehead State this year. Gordon talked about the importance of being in a conference to help develop his beach volleyball program.
“Conference affiliation for the beach program is so important for our development, and being a part of the ASUN is a great opportunity for our student-athletes,” Gordon said. “We are excited to be a member of such a competitive beach volleyball conference. While having a couple familiar faces is nice, we are looking forward to establishing new rivalries as well.”
The ASUN Conference currently has six members playing beach volleyball. FGCU, Jacksonville, Mercer, North Florida and Stetson have been in the league since its inception in the 2012 season. Coastal Carolina joined the conference in 2016 to bring the league membership to six teams.
North Alabama, which joins the ASUN as a full-time member in July 2018, will play its inaugural beach volleyball season in 2018-19. With today’s announcement, the ASUN will feature 10 beach volleyball programs in the conference for the 2018-19 academic year and move to divisional play. The Lions will be joined by Coastal Carolina, Austin Peay, Jacksonville State and Morehead State in the North Division. The South Division will consist of FGCU, Jacksonville, Mercer, North Florida and Stetson.
The ASUN Championship will consist of six teams in 2019 with the top team from each division qualifying automatically, along with four at-large participants. Selection and seeding for the event will be conducted by the ASUN office, following the same process currently employed by the NCAA.
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. The University of North Alabama will join the league for the 2018-19 season.