Feb. 23—After leaving the Ohio Valley Conference and before playing in the ASUN, Jacksonville State's football team will make a brief pitstop in the AQ7.
The ASUN Conference announced this morning that three of its schools will be joined by four Western Athletic Conference schools in a one-year deal for football this fall. The alliance is presented as the ASUN-WAC Challenge, and the ASUN is named first because it's the driving force behind the arrangement.
The alliance will be known as the AQ7, which refers to the seven teams involved playing for an Automatic Qualifier spot in the FCS playoffs. Of the two leagues, the ASUN will apply for the Automatic Qualifier spot in its name for this one-year alliance.
The alliance will include JSU, Central Arkansas and Eastern Kentucky from the ASUN and Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin from the WAC. The team with the highest winning percentage will receive the FCS playoff bid.
"We're certainly excited to have a chance at an AQ spot," JSU athletics director Greg Seitz said. "We appreciate the four schools from the WAC agreeing to work with us to allow us to play for an AQ and have access to the playoffs."
All seven teams will play each other, and everybody will have three home games and three on the road.
The Gamecocks' AQ7 schedule:
—Oct. 9, Stephen F. Austin, home
—Oct. 23, Sam Houston, away
—Oct. 30, Central Arkansas, home
—Nov. 6, Abilene Christian, home
—Nov. 13, Lamar, away
—Nov. 20, Eastern Kentucky, away
JSU also has non-conference games set for 2021 against North Alabama, UAB and Florida State. Seitz said the Gamecocks are searching for two more games to complete the schedule.
Kennesaw State and North Alabama of the ASUN won't participate in the alliance because they're already scheduled to play as an affiliate member of the Big South Conference this fall. Also, WAC members Dixie State and Tarleton will participate in the joint schedule but will not be eligible for the group's AQ because they're reclassifying to NCAA Division I. Games against those two teams won't count toward a team's winning percentage in the AQ7.
Seitz said the ASUN-WAC Challenge will allow the ASUN a year to build on its list of football-playing members. With five schools, it's one short of the minimum number required to qualify for an Automatic Qualifier bid.
"It's an opportunity to earn the AQ right away, but it also allows us the opportunity to build the ASUN," Seitz said. "It gives us a year to find the right partners and the right fit."
As for which schools the ASUN might target, Seitz said the league will continue looking for "like-minded" schools, which place the same importance on football the way JSU, Kennesaw State, UNA, Central Arkansas and Eastern Kentucky do.
"We all want schools that are like-minded," Seitz said at a group news conference this morning in Atlanta. "The five schools on this stage certainly value football and are committed to building the premiere conference in FCS football."
ASUN commissioner Ted Gumbart added that he is "supremely confident" the league will add to its list of football-playing schools in the future.
Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.