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Originally published: 2011-08-22 17:33:03
Last modified: 2011-08-26 14:30:53

UPDATE: ASU's move to FBS closer

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

The Appalachian State Feasibility Committee voted to recommend to Chancellor Kenneth Peacock that the university move up to play football in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The committee met on a conference call at 4 p.m. to vote and then recommend the move up to Peacock. Peacock will then consider the recommendation and make his recommendation to the ASU Board of Trustees.

 “The committee has done its due diligence and I agree with their assessment," ASU athletics director Charlie Cobb said in a statement released by the university. "ASU has been a Division I institution for 40 years with a proven record of success on and off the field. Should Appalachian be provided with the right opportunity within the changing Division I landscape, I agree that Mountaineer athletics can excel across the board at the FBS level."

Cobb cautioned that just became the committee made its recommendation, the Mountaineers will compete in the Southern Conference this season.

“However, this is just a first step towards a possible move. The goals of our teams — to compete for Southern Conference and national championships —will not change in the meantime,” Cobb added in the statement.

Co-chairman G.A. Sywassink added that he feels the move is the right decision and that it would not  be a financial burden on students.

“The analysis of the facts is very clear that FBS is the right place for Appalachian athletics from an across-the-board institutional standpoint," Sywassink said. "A move to FBS mirrors Appalachian's strategic vision as a nationally prominent institution and would enhance the university's academic mission. The committee has worked to develop a blended financial model that ensures that the move would not be made on the backs of students."

The committee has been meeting for seven months to discuss the issue of either moving to the FBS or staying in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Board of Trustees approved the athletic department's request to look into the issue in Sept. 2010. Appalachian State hired Collegiate Consulting LLC to do a study of Appalachian State's options as a Division I program, and the feasibility committee was formed in January to look at the consultant's results.

The statement released by the university also said that “In addition to ASU's unprecedented athletic success, the university's enrollment of 17,000-plus, its academic philosophy and its strategic vision going forward more closely mirror FBS institutions than its current FCS counterparts.”

The Mountaineers would not necessarily move to the FBS right away. They would need to find a conference affiliation before the NCAA would allow the move. They are not allowed to move up as an independent.

“A move to FBS is not imminent," Sywassink said. " It is essential that we find a conference fit that creates rivalries and makes financial sense. However, with what appears to be another seismic shift in the Division I landscape on the horizon, the committee concluded that it is crucial to make our future intentions known at this time.”

The conference that has received the most attention as a possible location for Appalachian State is Conference USA. The league currently has 12 members, but five — Houston, Rice, Southern Methodist, Texas El Paso and Tulsa — are located west of the Mississippi River. Tulane is also located in New Orleans, and Memphis is also a member of CUSA.

Other realistic possibilities include the Sun Belt Conference or the Mid-American Conference. The statement did not say if Appalachian State has a preference for any league.

However, possible moves in major conferences could be made in the near future. The Big 12 Conference has just 10 members at the moment after Colorado departed to the newly realigned Pac 12, and Nebraska left to join the Big 10, which has 12 teams.

There also have been reports that Texas A&M was interested in leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.

Conferences must have 12 teams before they can play a conference championship game, which brings in large television revenues for BCS conferences. The Big East has just nine football-playing teams, and offered FCS-playing Villanova, which plays basketball in that league, to move up back in 2010.

Appalachian State currently offers 63 football scholarships, as allowed by the FCS. That number would increase to 85 under the FBS rules.

Appalachian State's regular-season attendance of 29,449 last season was higher than 43 FBS programs. The Mountaineers' have won six straight Southern Conference championships and won national championships from 2005-07. They reached the semifinals in 2009 and the quarterfinals last year.

Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said in the statement he would put his trust in the committee and the university's administration.

“I trust and respect our administration and all of the hard work that they and the committee have put into this issue over the past several months. I fully support the recommendation of the committee and have no doubt that they have the best interests of Appalachian and our athletics department and football program in mind," Moore said.

In the meantime, Moore has the 2011 season to consider, which begins Sept. 3 at FBS and ACC member Virginia Tech.

“This recommendation does not change our focus as players and coaches one bit — it remains fully on preparing to play Virginia Tech on Sept. 3 and going on to compete for a seventh-straight Southern Conference championship,” Moore said.  

 

ASU Athletics Feasibility Committee Members
*G.A. Sywassink (Chairman and retired CEO of Standard Holding Corporation)
*Larry Stone (President and COO of Lowe's Corporation)
Eric Barnes (ASU Student Government Association representative)
John Blackburn (President, Linville Resorts, Inc.)
Mark Harrill (President, Foscoe Companies)
Jay Howard (President, JHE Production Group)
Derek Jenkins (Senior Vice President, Target Stores)
Doug Johnson (CEO, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation)
Jeffrey A. Shepard (Retired CEO, Footstar)
Tommy Sofield (CEO, U.S. Buildings)
Brad Wilson (CEO, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina)
* Co-chairpersons