With Bellarmine announcing their jump to DI in all sports tomorrow and move to the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN) they join Jacksonville and NJIT as the only three schools in the ASUN that field men’s lacrosse teams. The Move is officially set to take place at the start of the 2020-21 school year.
The ASUN already has women’s lacrosse with Jacksonville, Liberty, Kennesaw State, Costal Carolina, and Stetson being the full members with teams. Howard and Kent State are affiliate members for women’s lacrosse.
Bellarmine joining the ASUN is a huge move for the Knights athletic department as a whole and will benefit the lacrosse program a lot. The Knights lacrosse program will now be more legitimized and the “what is a Bellarmine?” persona that some potential recruits and others in the lacrosse community have may be lessened, especially if the basketball program continues the success they have enjoined in DII.
This move also makes sense because most of the schools in the ASUN have similarities in terms of school size, academics, and in the way in which they run their athletic departments. This move also makes sense in terms of lacrosse because of the co-sponsorship that the ASUN and SoCon have in lacrosse with the SoCon having men’s and ASUN having women’s.
In a sense, Bellarmine lacrosse will not be affected by this move to DI very much since they already are DI. It does help legitimize the program for skeptics and other outsiders and bring up some questions about conference realignment and the ASUN adding men’s lacrosse in the future if other schools in the conference add men’s lacrosse.
The schools in the ASUN that would make the most sense to add men’s lacrosse are Kennesaw State and Liberty. Lacrosse is booming in Georgia and Kennesaw State would give the state a second DI men’s program along with Mercer. Liberty has a pretty strong club program already and could be able to attract a lot of recruits because of their location in Virginia.
Just like the argument with the A-10, the ASUN could add men’s lacrosse as a sport in their conference and it would make sense, not considering their co-sponsor affiliation with the SoCon.
They will already have Bellarmine, Jacksonville, and NJIT so all they would need is three more teams to make six which qualifies a conference for the AQ in the NCAA tournament.
Geographically and administration wise, the school that would make the most sense is Hampton. The Pirates currently don’t have a conference and the ASUN already has Howard as an affiliate member for women’s lacrosse so they know how HBCU athletic departments work.
While it wouldn’t make much geographical sense, but the again many conferences don’t these days, Cleveland State and Detroit Mercy could also make sense as programs to join the ASUN in lacrosse. While that would mean Detroit Mercy leaving the MAAC, they have a lot in common with schools in the ASUN as well.
It doesn’t look likely that the ASUN will add men’s lacrosse anytime soon, especially considering their deal with the SoCon, but it is something fun to talk about just like most conference realignment discussions and debates.