BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University’s athletics feasibility committee voted on Monday to recommend to ASU Chancellor Dr. Kenneth E. Peacock that, at some future point, Appalachian seek membership in an athletics conference that sponsors football in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
With signs pointing towards another significant shift in the Division I landscape, the committee held a conference call Monday to formally recommend that the time is right for Appalachian to make its intention to move to FBS known. A formal report of the committee’s findings and analysis will be finalized in the coming weeks.
Dr. Peacock will study the committee’s recommendation and make a recommendation of his own to the ASU Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees must approve any change in Appalachian athletics’ conference and/or football subdivision. A timeline for transition from the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to FBS, including eligibility for conference championships, the NCAA Division I Football Championship and bowl games, would not be determined until Appalachian accepts membership in a new conference.
The 11-member athletics feasibility committee determined through seven months of study and analysis that Appalachian is best suited for FBS as an institution and an athletics department. 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.
Committee co-chairperson G.A. Sywassink said, “The analysis of the facts is very clear that FBS is the right place for Appalachian athletics from an across-the-board institutional standpoint. 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.
“A move to FBS is not imminent. 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 Mountaineers are already on par with FBS institutions in many respects. Since 2005, Appalachian has ranked 76th or higher each year among 240-plus Division I football programs (FBS and FCS combined) in the Sagarin computer ratings. ASU has also averaged 26,350 fans per regular-season football game, a mark which comes in at nearly 140 percent of Kidd Brewer Stadium’s average official seating capacity during that time. Last year, Appalachian’s average regular-season attendance was 29,449, which was higher than 43 FBS programs.
ASU’s athletic success has not been limited to the gridiron. Over the past five years, Appalachian has earned two postseason National Invitation Tournament berths and appeared in a total of four national postseason tournaments in men’s and women’s basketball, earned a top-50 Ratings Percentage Index ranking in baseball and sent individual athletes to NCAA national competitions in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and wrestling.
Appalachian athletics received approval from the University’s Board of Trustees in September 2010 to evaluate its options with regards to the changing Division I landscape. ASU contracted Collegiate Consulting LLC (formerly NACDA Consulting) to conduct an independent study of Appalachian’s options within Division I and the athletics feasibility committee was formed in January to analyze the study’s findings. Committee members also considered feedback from dozens of focus groups within the ASU and local communities.
ASU director of athletics Charlie Cobb said, “First of all, I can’t thank the 11 members of the athletics feasibility committee enough for the time, effort and passion that they have put into their analysis over the last seven months.
“The committee has done its due diligence and I agree with their assessment. 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.
“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.”
Appalachian football coach Jerry Moore added, “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.
“However, 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.”
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)