In the spring, when Belmont announced that it was leaving the A-Sun, conference commissioner Ted Gumbart wasn’t pushing any panic button, nor was he of the belief that the A-Sun had to respond quickly with expansion.
“There’s no absolute reason we have to do anything,” he said in May.
That lasted about six months.
Northern Kentucky is expected to become the newest member of the conference Thursday when the school will announce its official move to Division I and acceptance of an invitation to join the A-Sun, according to reports in the Cincinnati area.
The school has a Board of Regents meeting schedule for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday with the conference announcement expected after that.
“I’m not going to make any comment on membership activities,” Gumbart said when reached Wednesday night.
He confirmed that he visited the campus on Nov. 22, and a small committee visited about a week later.
Northern Kentucky is located in suburban Covington, Ky., about 15 minutes from downtown Cincinnati.
The addition drastically expands the geographic footprint of the conference. The A-Sun will cover more than 1,000 miles, top to bottom, from Covington to Fort Myers, Fla., home to Florida Gulf Coast. The closest A-Sun school to Northern Kentucky will be Lipscomb in Nashville, about 280 miles away.
Northern Kentucky is a little more than 500 miles from Mercer.
Enrollment is about 10,700 full-time students and 5,036 part-time students, 13,500 undergraduates overall. It was founded in 1968.
Its basketball teams play at the 9,400-seat Bank of Kentucky Center, which opened in 2008 and cost $60 million. It opened a $6.5 million soccer complex in 2010.
The Norse compete in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
The women’s basketball team won Division II national title in 2000 and 2008, and the men’s soccer team won the national championship in 2010, two years after reaching the semifinals.
Northern Kentucky announced in April that it would move up to Division I, and its first choice was, ironically, the Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont’s new home. The Summitt and Horizon leagues were also of interest to the school.
Northern Kentucky will begin playing Division I schedules next fall.