Bellarmine Knights celebrate July 1 rise to NCAA Division 1

June 30, 2020


On July 1, Bellarmine University will celebrate the elevation of its athletics program from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I, making Bellarmine the only private D-I university in Kentucky and one of only a handful of D-I Catholic universities in the South. 

All 22 of the Knights’ varsity sports programs will now compete in Division I, including 17 in the ASUN Conference

“This is an exciting and historic time to be a Bellarmine Knight,” Bellarmine President Dr. Susan M. Donovan said. “Our move to Division I will elevate our game as we compete against the best rivals in college sports. At the same time, the increased visibility of Division I will allow us to share the Bellarmine story with a larger audience and offer an excellent Bellarmine education to more students than ever before.” 

To celebrate the D-I milestone, a video featuring Donovan, Athletic Director Scott Wiegandt, coaches and student-athletes will air on the Bellarmine University Facebook page at 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 1. Additionally, fans may register at to win a commemorative keepsake signed by all BU head coaches and other prizes. 

“Joining the ranks of NCAA D-I is the realization of a long-term, university-wide goal, and it’s the recognition of seven decades of athletics excellence at Bellarmine,” Wiegandt said. “As we take this step, it is important to remember that we’re only able to make the stride because we’re standing on the shoulders of the many who have come before us. In our 71st year of competition, I relish the opportunity of competing at the D-I level and building new rivalries. I also would like to thank the ASUN Conference, Commissioner Ted Gumbart and all of the member institutions for welcoming us so warmly to a new league.  The students-first attitude of the ASUN and its members makes the conference a great fit for Bellarmine University, and I look forward to a great transition.” 

Bellarmine’s move to D-I was announced last summer as one of the first major initiatives in the university's strategic plan. Stakeholder studies revealed the university and its student-athletes were well-poised for D-I competition. 

Transitioning to D-I will extend the university’s geographic reach, support enrollment growth, improve diversity and achieve better gender balance. Increased exposure will enhance institutional awareness and expand partnership opportunities. 

"July 1 marks Bellarmine's first official day as a member of the ASUN Conference," Commissioner Gumbart said. "On behalf of the entire ASUN family, I can share that the excitement surrounding Bellarmine's move into our conference continues to grow. Congratulations to the Knights and the Bellarmine family. Welcome to the ASUN." 

Bellarmine teams in the following 17 sports will compete in the ASUN, beginning the 2020-21 academic year: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf,  men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and volleyball.


  • Men’s lacrosse, which has been a D-I program since 2005, will continue as a member of the Southern Conference.   
  • Men’s and women’s swimming and diving will participate in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association. 
  • Field hockey will join the Mid-American Conference beginning in 2021-22.
  • An announcement concerning the wrestling conference affiliation is expected soon.

“The major highlight of us moving to Division I is the ability to showcase who we are and who Bellarmine is on a bigger stage,” said Juston Betz, a senior guard on the men’s basketball team and president of Bellarmine’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. “From a student-athlete’s perspective, moving to D-I is a dream come true. Not only do we have the opportunity to be pioneers for years to come, but we also get to do it for the most amazing university I could ask for. I can’t wait to get started.”  

For more information about Bellarmine's plans to transition to D-I athletics, visit

About Bellarmine 

Bellarmine University (Louisville, Ky.) is an inclusive independent Catholic university with a strong liberal arts focus that educates students in mind, body, and spirit for meaningful lives, rewarding careers, ethical leadership, and service to improve the human condition. Founded in 1950, Bellarmine offers more than 60 majors with an undergraduate and graduate enrollment of nearly 3,500 students and has an alumni community of more than 25,000. The Bellarmine Knights field teams in 22 sports. Bellarmine is listed as a top U.S. university by publications including The Princeton Review, Forbes and U.S. News and World Report. 

About ASUN 

The ASUN Conference is a NCAA Division I league committed to Building Winners for Life by meeting the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. The ASUN includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Liberty University, Lipscomb University, University of North Alabama, University of North Florida and Stetson University. The addition of Bellarmine University will bring the ASUN membership up to 9 institutions for the 2020-21 academic year. 



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