Behr: Just win, baby
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Appalachian State has built some good rivalries over the years, especially in the Southern Conference. The most obvious is with Western Carolina.
The rivalry makes sense. The teams have been playing each other in athletics before they joined the Southern Conference.
They play for the Old Mountain Jug, a jug that has a Western Carolina Catamount painted on one side and Yosef on the other. They have not-so-flattering nicknames for each other. Western Carolina plays in Dullowhee, while those of us who live here are known as the “Boone Goons.”
Hopefully, none of that is in jeopardy after the Mountaineers switch conferences. Appalachian State moved to the Sun Belt on Wednesday, while Western Carolina stays in the SoCon.
Appalachian State has built other rivalries over the years. Georgia Southern, who also moved to the Sun Belt on Wednesday, is unquestionably one of them.
Furman, Wofford and Elon have also occupied the role of rival. All but Western Carolina have one thing in common with Appalachian State.
They’ve battled for SoCon championships. They win.
Geographical rivalries were important to athletic director Charlie Cobb when Appalachian State started its quest to join the Football Bowl Subdivision. ASU would have thrived in a combination of Conference USA that included East Carolina and new member Charlotte.
But East Carolina moved to the Big East to squash that possibility, although there is no reason the schools can’t set up a home-and-home series in football and in men’s and women’s basketball.
Even though Appalachian State is the lone program from North or South Carolina, the Mountaineers should have no problem creating new rivalries with Big South opponents. ASU has to do just one thing.
There was a day when former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney declared that longtime Big 8 power Nebraska would be the Buffaloes’ rival. The states share a border and McCartney wanted a standard for his team to achieve.
Nebraska reacted with a big yawn.
After Colorado beat Nebraska and won back-to-back Big 8 championships, the Cornhuskers started taking CU a bit more seriously. Now that Colorado moved to the Pac-12 and Nebraska went to Big-10, it’s not such a big deal.
Out of sight, out if mind.
Long-distance rivalries happen in the SoCon, too. Most Georgia Southern games with Appalachian State are as entertaining as any in the ACC. They hit hard, they are greatly skilled and the games are interesting.
With the exception of a few lost seasons, there was always something at stake, too.
It doesn’t have to be a conference foe to be a rival. Appalachian State’s rivalry with James Madison was as intense as any conference feud. Again, two outstanding programs playing outstanding football well worth the cost to get in.
ASU’s rivalry with Montana is the same. I’d pay to see those two teams play each other more than I would want to pay to see any teams in the ACC play.
ASU goes into the Sun Belt with rival Georgia Southern. That rivalry won’t end any time soon.
New rivals will be created if Appalachian State can win football games. It happened in the Southern Conference.
It can happen in the Sun Belt.