When people talk about the recent successes of Appalachian football, everyone immediately jumps to the conclusion that we’re ready for FBS and that instant results will follow. This post will take a look at why FBS shouldn’t be a preferred destination and why the Mountaineers need to stay in FCS.
Bad Results on the Field. A lot of people look at the recent result against Michigan and the strong showings against other FBS opponents and believe that App could jump right in now and be competitive. I believe it would take a few years before we could claim a season to be a success at the FBS level. The App faithful definitely support the Mountaineers in droves now but will the crowds at The Rock still be standing room only when we finish a season 4-8 or 3-9 or worse? Just as recently as this century, App couldn’t sell out a home playoff game. Obviously, three national titles are going to bring the crowds, but will they stay around?
Loss of rivalries and unfamiliar opponents. A move forward would eliminate the natural rivalry with Western Carolina and the popular rivalries with schools such as Georgia Southern and Furman. Unless some of these schools joined Appalachian in moving to FBS, the Apps would no longer play. While it could be argued that the games against Western Carolina are really a rivalry in name only, I believe the long-time fan base would be upset to lose that tradition. While tickets are hard to come by even for a game against Lenoir-Rhyne now, fans still recognize the traditional Southern Conference opponents and remember the history of those past games. It will take several years before fans develop any sense of tradition or emotion when schools such as Western Kentucky or Arkansas State come to Boone.
Empty seats. This point relates to the two above. How will our fan base react to a few difficult years? Will they give the program a “grace period” in which to adjust to FBS or will instant results be expected? And if those results aren’t achieved, will the fans just stop coming? I don’t have the answers to these questions but I’ve seen first-hand how fickle a fan base can be at times.
Financial drain on the entire athletic program. One of my biggest fears about moving to FBS is how it would affect the budgets of the other sports in the athletic department. Changing conferences to a league with a wider region than the Southern Conference would most definitely nearly double the travel budgets of other sports in the athletic department. Recruiting budgets would need to be increased to get better athletes in the the program in order to compete at a higher level.
No more playoffs. No more national championships. A departure from FCS competition would effectively end any chance of the Mountaineers ever getting another national title in football. With the current structure of the BCS and the immense power of conferences such as the SEC, Pac-10, Big Ten, etc., the Apps would be shut out of any chance at a national title. Even a school such as Boise State, who goes undefeated and wins a BCS bowl, still fails to capture that ultimate moniker of “National Champion.” Are we willing to sacrifice the excitement of a playoff race for the hope of playing in a bowl game in Mobile, Alabama or some other lower-tier bowl?
These are just a few of the major reasons in my mind why such a move should be considered very seriously. What would you think are some of the other drawbacks to moving to the FBS level?