The Bellarmine University Knights will soon have the opportunity to compete against some of the best college teams as an NCAA Division I school.
Dr. Susan Donovan, Bellarmine’s president, announced during a press conference June 18 that the university is joining the Atlantic Sun (ASUN) Conference. Bellarmine’s athletic programs will compete in Division I beginning with the 2020-21 season increasing the ASUN membership to 10 institutions.
The ASUN Conference is a collegiate athletic conference “committed … to meeting the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement,” according to a media release from the school.
Donovan said in the release that accepting this invitation is the first “major achievement” of the school’s new strategic plan. Bellarmine announced last month that its board of trustees had approved a new strategic plan focused on six priorities.
“I’m happy to announce that one of the first initiatives in Bellarmine’s new strategic plan is being realized,” said Donovan. “This move gives us the opportunity to compete against the best rivals in college sports and it allows us to share the Bellarmine story with a larger audience than ever before.
“As we make the move to Division I, we will continue to maintain our academic rigor and pursue ways to innovate and enhance the exceptional educational experience that Bellarmine University has offered students since its founding.”
Scott Wiegandt, Bellarmine’s director of athletics, said the “ASUN is a perfect fit for the Bellarmine Knights.
“Our student athletes already meet Division I academic standards and our players and coaches will be ready to compete when we join our new conference next year,” he said. “While our facilities generally meet DI standards, we’re planning some upgrades that will enhance the experience for our student-athletes, our opponents and our fans.”
Wiegandt noted that “the improved reach offered through ASUN and ESPN (a broadcast partner of the conference) will shine a brighter spotlight on Bellarmine, drawing more regional and national attention.”
Bellarmine fields 17 sports sponsored by the ASUN, while the men’s lacrosse program will continue as a member of the Southern Conference. Bellarmine’s men’s & women’s swimming will now participate in the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association with its field hockey and wrestling programs moving to Division I independent status, a news release from the ASUN said.
For more information about Bellarmine’s transition to Division I athletics, visit bellarmine.edu/bellarmine-rising/.