Bellarmine University to join Division I starting in 2020


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Bellarmine University is joining Division I athletics as part of the Atlantic Sun Conference starting in 2020.

University officials announced Tuesday that Bellarmine would be the 10th member of the ASUN.

Bellarmine will be the only private D-I university in Kentucky and one of the few Division I catholic universities in the south.

The president of Bellarmine, Susan Donovan, said the move to Division I is just one aspect of the university's new strategic plan, which has six priorities:

  • Delivering a transformative student experience

  • Becoming a model for academic innovation

  • Expanding enrollment and geographic reach

  • Committing to equity and inclusion

  • Becoming a fully engaged partner in Louisville and the region

  • Ensuring affordability and access while being good stewards of the university's resources

“The addition of Bellarmine University to the ASUN continues the rising trend of our league,” said ASUN Commissioner Ted Gumbart. “We are extremely proud to become teammates with a great university and the Louisville-area community.”

The ASUN Conference was formed in 1978 and is primarily based in the southeast. Its nine current members include Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Liberty, Lipscomb, New Jersey Institute of Technology, North Alabama, North Florida and Stetson.

"Joining NCAA Division I will help Bellarmine raise its regional and national profile," said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. "That will help Bellarmine continue to grow and Bellarmine's growth is great news for Louisville because we want to continue to attract talented, ambitious young people to come here, get their degree and then stay here to start careers, businesses and families. Bellarmine's success fuels Louisville's success."

Bellarmine has competed in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference since 1978. The Knights have been a D-II power in basketball for the last decade, winning a national championship in 2011. 

The reclassification process takes four years, but, upon completion, Bellarmine will be able to compete for the ASUN's automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.

Officials said the D-II men’s basketball national championship immediately resulted in elevated interest. Officials said this move to D-I will put them on the national stage.

Bellarmine has 22 varsity teams, with 21 currently competing at the D-II level.

The school's men's lacrosse team currently competes at the D-I level.

Men's and women's swimming will participate in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association, and field hockey and wrestling will compete in D-I with independent status.


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