Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison put it bluntly: if you’re scared, go to church.
The athletic programs at Austin Peay face a daunting task when making the jump to the ASUN Conference next year, but coaches aren’t backing down from what Govs quarterback Draylen Ellis called “the SEC of FCS football.”
“I think that’s a great way to put it,” ASUN Commissioner Ted Gumbart said. “If you look at the top of football and college football, the SEC is a standard for achievement.
“We expect and we plan for success. We talk about our fishing program, it needs to be the best. We talked about the replay systems and the cameras and the equipment that we need to be the best. That’s something that we aim to be and that’s in everything.”
Last week, APSU announced its plans to become a member of the ASUN. University President Michael Licari and Harrison called the move “an aggressive step” in their pursuit of becoming a challenger for national titles.
After paying the Ohio Valley Conference’s $1 million exit fee, the Governors will become the 13th member and just the sixth for ASUN football, which officially kicks off next year.
“I think it’s a phenomenal step in our program,” head football coach Scotty Walden said after Saturday’s home opener. “We say all the time that stagnation leads to death. If we stay the same, we’re going to start declining. It’s the best thing for us and it’s about us taking a big step of wanting to be a national contender year in and year out.”
Its 12 men’s basketball members have combined for 34 appearances in the NCAA Tournament all time. First-year associate head coach Michael Cotton will return to the courts and conference he knows well next winter.
He coached five All-ASUN players as the head assistant at Kennesaw State from 2015-19.
“I do know that night in and night out, you have to bring your A game,” he said. “They have various styles, and the travel is a little different. But it’s a super competitive league and something that we’re looking forward to.”
Baseball head coach Travis Janssen said the climate and culture of programs like Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, North Florida and Stetson make that much more of an already impressive class.
“If you’re asking me straight up if the level of baseball is better in the ASUN than it is in the OVC, you would have to say yes,” Janssen said. “The programs around this region are really, really good, but then you add those Florida schools and it does make for a really tough conference.
“Just like Gerald and Jordan Harmon said, we’re certainly not scared of it. We’re excited about the challenge and we’re looking forward to the challenge and meeting the challenge.”
APSU officially joins the conference on July 1, 2022.
“I have no fear for what we’re about to embark on,” Harrison said. “Our athletics department has done great things. We’ve won championships in the OVC, and we believe we can win championships in the ASUN.”