Liberty Announces Move To Atlantic Sun Conference
Liberty will next school year join the Atlantic Sun Conference, the school announced Thursday. The Flames have been a member of the Big South Conference since 1991.
With South Carolina-Upstate this fall announcing it would move from the Atlantic Sun to the Big South next school year, the conferences have essentially swapped teams in a move that seems to make sense for everyone.
North Alabama will also join the A-Sun next year as it begins its process of reclassifying from Division II to Division I, though the Lions will not be postseason eligible until 2023.
Liberty’s addition also helps the A-Sun on the diamond, where it has been ascendant in the last two years. Florida Gulf Coast had a breakthrough year in 2017, rising to No. 11 in the Top 25 and advancing to regionals for the first time as a Division I program. This year, both Jacksonville and Stetson have been ranked in the Top 25 and are on track to reach the NCAA Tournament, which would be the first time since 2013 the conference received multiple bids in one season.
The Hatters also are projected to host a regional and have a likely first round pick in righthander Logan Gilbert.
Liberty brings another solid program to the conference. The Flames made back-to-back regionals appearances in 2013-14 and have consistently been among the best teams in the Big South. With Liberty joining a solid core of FGCU, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb and Stetson, the A-Sun has a chance to more consistently be a two-bid league in the future.
The Big South has now lost two of its top baseball programs in the last three years, as Coastal Carolina left for the Sun Belt Conference after the 2016 season. The loss of those two programs, especially the Chanticleers, has significantly lessened its profile and the conference doesn't currently have a program in the top 100 of RPI.