Roan: EKU wants Atlantic Sun to become the SEC of FCS

Eastern Kentucky University was a founding member of the Ohio Valley Conference. Now the Colonels will make history as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

The conference has yet to become a full-fledged football league, but has scheduled an alliance with the Western Athletic Conference for this season. The  Colonels will take on Tarleton, Abilene Christian, Lamar and Sam Houston this year.

“Right now we want to be the SEC of FCS football,” Eastern Kentucky athletics director Matt Roan said. “We want to be the premier FCS Football Conference in America.”

Roan said the conference wants to follow the path set forth by several other top conferences in the FCS.

“The Missouri Valley is a really good one (and) the Big South or the Big Sky (Conference) is a very good one,” Roan said. “The Colonial is a very good one.”

Roan said the Colonels bring “a lot of tradition that’s really unmatched” on the gridiron. League members North Alabama, Kennesaaw State, Central Arkansas and Jacksonville State bring a dose of football prowess to the league. Eastern won national championships in 1979 and 1981.

“There’s very few people that have the football tradition that we have. So when you look at that core five, we’re in a great position,” Roan said. “As a founding football member, you know, we can have those conversations with those schools that we would like to include and join us and kind of what we’re trying to build in the same spirit as we built the OVC and 1948.”

Roan isn’t sure if the football league will have aspirations to move up to the FBS eventually, but added it will depend on what the “collective wants to do.”

“If one of them, including ourselves, said, ‘hey, we would like to test the FBS waters, (the commissioner) would be supportive and the league office would be supportive and the membership would be supportive,’” Roan said. “ I think the same can be said that if the league as a whole said, ‘hey, we’d like to see if there’s a pathway to FBS — there could be that pursuit of that as well.’”

Atlantic Sun Commissioner Ted Gumbart said the addition of Eastern, Jacksonville State and Central Arkansas “represents a new era in the ASUN.”

“We have moved subdivisions as a conference with the sponsorship of football,” he said. “Our goal is simple, maintain the upward trend of academic and athletic performance success we have established in all our current sports and become the best FCS conference in the country. Bringing these three schools together with ASUN FCS members Kennesaw State and North Alabama give us a tremendous foundation upon which to build.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or Twitter @keithtaylor21