Lions join conferences with competitive teams

North Alabama Director of Athletics Mark Linder addresses the crowd at the university’s Dec. 6 press conference at the Guillot University Center announcing acceptance to the ASUN Conference. All UNA sports will compete against the current eight ASUN schools beginning in 2018 except for football, which will compete in the Big South Conference.

by Sports Editor Andrew Fulmer

With the move to Division I underway, the North Alabama Lions will encounter new challenges and teams with each sport. The ASUN conference will include nine teams with UNA’s addition in 2018. UNA’s football only conference, the Big South, currently includes six other schools.

The other eight teams that are already in the ASUN include schools from Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and New Jersey.

Below is a list of the eight teams UNA will compete with in 2018 in the ASUN, and the six teams UNA football will face from the Big South.

 

ASUN

 

Florida Gulf Coast

 

Nickname: Eagles

Location: Fort Myers, Florida

Established: 1991

Florida Gulf Coast is a university that has made a name for itself recently with their men’s basketball team advancing to the sweet 16 in 2013 after two years removed from transitioning from Division II. While at the Division II level, the Eagles women’s basketball team posted a 35-1 record in the 2006-07 season and finished national runner-up.

 

Jacksonville University

 

Nickname: Dolphins

Location: Jacksonville, Florida

Established: 1934

JU has a long history of athletic prowess. The Dolphins baseball program has made 13 NCAA tournament appearances, including a 1976 South Region runner-up. JU’s 1970 men’s basketball team, led by Naismith Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore, advanced to the national title game against UCLA, but fell 80-69. This would be the sixth of nine consecutive titles for Bruins head coach John Wooden.

 

Kennesaw State

 

Nickname: Owls

Location: Kennesaw, Georgia

Established: 1963

Similar to UNA, KSU was a Division II powerhouse before transitioning to Division I in 2005. The Owls won national titles in softball (1995-96), women’s soccer (2003), baseball (1996) and men’s basketball (2004). KSU joins UNA and Grand Valley State as the only Division II universities with a national title in four different sports.

 

Lipscomb

 

Nickname: Bisons

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Established: 1891

UNA will have a fellow purple and gold clad university in the ASUN and coincidentally, the closest team geographically. Lipscomb fielded athletic teams in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics before moving to the NCAA. Most of the Bisons athletic success came during their time in the NAIA with 14 tournament appearances and the 1986 NAIA national championship.

 

New Jersey Tech

 

Nickname: Highlanders

Location: Newark, New Jersey

The newest member of the ASUN conference, aside from UNA, is the Highlanders. The technology school has been a Division I institution since 2006, and despite its northern location and long trek, NJIT made the official move to the ASUN in 2016.

 

North Florida

 

Nickname: Ospreys

Location: Jacksonville, Florida

Established: 1972

One of two ASUN teams located in the river city, UNF is also a program that recently transitioned to the Division I ranks from Division II. The Ospreys softball team appeared in seven consecutive Division II tournaments from 1999-2005 and the men’s golf team appeared in five Division II regional tournaments, and the 2000 Division II championship tournament. The men’s basketball team earned their first Division I tournament bid when they won the ASUN championship over South Carolina-Upstate.

 

Stetson University

 

Nickname: Hatters

Location: DeLand, Florida

Established: 1883

Stetson is a baseball powerhouse in the ASUN, having won seven conference titles and 16 appearances in the NCAA regionals. The Hatters women’s basketball program has also enjoyed success, winning the ASUN tournament and receiving automatic NCAA tournament bids in 2005, 2011 and 2013.

 

South Carolina-Upstate

 

Nickname: Spartans

Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina

Established: 1967

USC-Upstate is an up and coming program that, like many ASUN universities, moved to Division I from the Division II ranks. The Spartans field 15 varsity sports including baseball, which is helmed by Matt Fincher in his 20th season with the university.

 

Big South

 

Charleston Southern

 

Nickname: Buccaneers

Location: North Charleston, South Carolina

Established: 1964

After struggling to find success in the 90’s, the CSU football team began finding success in the 2000’s under Jay Mills, who led the Buccaneers to their first Big South title in 2005, and then under former Delta State head coach Jamey Chadwell, who led CSU to consecutive Big South titles in 2015-16 and a Football Championship Subdivision tournament quarterfinal appearance in 2015.

 

Liberty

 

Nickname: Flames

Location: Lynchburg, Virginia

Established: 1971

Liberty may be a short-lived series for UNA. In 2012, officials from Liberty announced their intentions to move up to the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision and all that is needed to finalize the move is an invitation from one of the FBS schools. The Flames are led by former Kansas head coach Turner Gill and has guided Liberty to three consecutive Big South Co-Championships in 2012-14.

 

Kennesaw State

 

Nickname: Owls

Location: Kennesaw, Georgia

Established: 1963

KSU is the only program that UNA will compete against in the ASUN and Big South. The Owls football program is in its infancy after completing its second season of football. The 2016 Owls squad with a Big South Conference best 8-3 overall record.

 

Gardner-Webb

 

Nickname: Runnin’ Bulldogs

Location: Boiling Springs, North Carolina

Established: 1905

Gardner-Webb has fielded football since 1970 and has competed in the Big South Conference since 2002. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are coached by former North Greenville and Austin Peay head coach Carroll McCray who has led them to a 20-26 record over four seasons.

 

Presbyterian

 

Nickname: Blue Hose

Location: Clinton, South Carolina

Established: 1880

PC has a storied tradition in football. Once a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic association, a forerunner conference to today’s Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, PC competed against teams like Clemson, South Carolina and Miami (FL). After reclassifying to NAIA, and later NCAA Division II, the Blue Hose moved back into the Division I ranks in 2011.

 

Monmouth

 

Nickname: Hawks

Location: West Long Branch, New Jersey

Established: 1933

The Monmouth Hawks are another team UNA will face that has a relatively new football program. Monmouth’s first season began in 1993, yet has produced several players who have had success in the NFL, such as Miles Austin and Chris Hogan. Kevin Callahan who has been the head coach since the program began coaches the Hawks.