Not Everyone Is Happy with NKU's Move to Horizon League
It was jubilation in Highland Heights on Monday as Northern Kentucky University's Board of Regents voted to move the Norse athletics program from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the Horizon League.
On social media, the news was also celebrated with the Horizon League encouraging its Twitter followers to follow NKU's various sports, and athletics directors in the league welcoming former Green Bay AD Ken Bothof, who now helms NKU's athletics program, back to the conference.
National sports writer Pat Forde called NKU's decision a good move, something that is hard to argue considering the geographic location of the other schools in the league. NKU estimates that it will save a quarter million dollars on travel.
But southward, reaction to the news was saltier.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is now on the brink of losing its automatic bid to the NCAA Basketball Tournament with only seven members left, the bare minimum allowed for such a bid to be awarded. That's a harsh reality for a conference that gave the nation such thrilling moments as 2013's Sweet 16 run by Florida Gulf Coast and 2014's upset of Duke by Mercer.
Mercer has since left the Atlantic Sun, as have Belmont, East Tennessee State, Gardner-Webb, and Campbell in recent years.
But NKU's abrupt departure is not sitting well with Florida Gulf Coast's play-by-play guy David Moulton:
"Besides, the A-Sun took them three years ago when no other Division I conference wanted them in 2012. That courtesy, and the fact the A-Sun made all NKU teams eligible for the conference tournaments this year -- when they did not have to, should have earned the A-Sun, and their seven other schools a one-year reprieve.
"NKU leaving should not have been a surprise -- leaving in a month is bush-league."
Moulton said that some of the other schools that left the conference did so with a year's warning and that with just seven teams, the remaining members will be scrambling to fill their schedules which may force some match-ups with Division II schools, a move that could hurt the members' competitive ratings.
FGCU Athletic Director Ken Kavanaugh is also upset by the news:
“We as an institution had expressed concerns ... we went along with the rest of the league to make it a unanimous decision to invite them,” Kavanagh said. “But Dr. Bradshaw and I and others had this fear from the beginning that we’d have to deal with this sooner rather than later. That being said, I don’t think anyone expected it to happen this quickly. Even more so, for it to happen in such a manner.”
Some of the criticism aimed at NKU has been that the Atlantic Sun welcomed the Norse three seasons ago when it failed to gain membership in the Ohio Valley Conference, which was reportedly the school's first choice. The A-Sun also permitted the Norse to play in the conference's post-season tournaments this season, two years ahead of schedule, with the NKU women's basketball team advancing to the conference title game, ending the seasons of USC-Upstate and Stetson along the way.
Photo via FGCU Facebook