Category Archives: The Move to FBS

Western Kentucky’s jump up

Good article on Western Kentucky’s move up to the FBS level in USA Today here.  Key points:

  • But the school must pony up. Going from 63 football scholarships to the FBS cap of 85 will cost close to $370,000 annually. Coach David Elson’s salary is going from $195,000 this season to $250,000 in 2009, and he gets three additional full-time assistants. Summer-school expenses are rising by close to $500,000. Two or three team charter flights a season, at $150,000 a pop, will increase travel costs.

    The football budget has jumped from $2.4 million in 2006 to $4.6 million this year, and Selig projects it will rise by an additional 27% — to $5.8 million — by the 2012 season.

  • Still, the climb is decidedly steep. Western Kentucky’s football outlay remains meager by FBS standards. Southeastern Conference member Kentucky has budgeted a little more than $11 million for the sport this year. Alabama will spend about $18 million.

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The Move to FBS Debate: Unabridged

Here’s the links to each part of our mini-series exploring the decision about moving to FBS or staying put.

Part I: Will three national titles (and a Michigan win) be enough?

Part II: The Now

Part III: The Landscape

Part IV: The Pros

Part V: The Cons

Part VI: Final Thoughts

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The Move to FBS: Final Thoughts

Throughout this mini-series, I’ve taken a brief look at a number of components that would factor into a move to FBS. We’ve discussed the pros and the cons of leaving the FCS level. I think the entire argument can be boiled down to this:

Being a Big Fish in a Little Pond (Staying in FCS) or being a Little Fish in a Big Pond (Moving to FBS).

Even after exploring this issue, I’m still so torn on the decision. I think one of the biggest reasons I struggle with making a decision is because of how passionate I am about Appalachian.

As an alum, I’ve always felt that attending Appalachian made me a bit unique. Growing up in North Carolina, your sports page is jammed with news about Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest and to a lesser extent, East Carolina. Going somewhere different was one of the reasons I chose Appalachian. On that same note, I’ve always felt like being an Appalachian fan made me unique. Following Appalachian through a playoff run is something that fans of other football programs don’t have the opportunity to do. Of course, other people sometimes like to mock the FCS level, but I loved the chance to cheer for a potential national champion.

I’ve ended up on the field in Chattanooga for the last two national titles. The elation, the emotion and the pure joy of experiencing those wins with so many Appalachian fans is something that I’ll never forget. I wonder if I would feel the same way after Appalachian won the New Orleans Bowl or the St. Petersburg Bowl. I doubt it.

On the other hand, I’d love see Appalachian go toe-to-toe with the best FBS has to offer and when we win, it no longer be considered an unbelievable upset. I’d love to see App continually ranked in the Top 25 nationally. It would be incredible for 40,000 to 50,000 fans at Kidd Brewer Stadium to be a regular occurence on a fall afternoon in Boone. Is it possible? Maybe.

I’m sure many of who have been reading these posts were expecting me to give you a straight answer. But I don’t have a straight answer to give you. After experiencing FCS football up close and now working for a school at the FBS level, I’ve seen both the good and the bad. As soon as I think of a good reason for App to move up, I can think of a bad one immediately. I think I’m in too deep with Appalachian tradition and emotion to make an objective decision. But regardless of what happens, I’ll continue to support the Apps, no matter who we’re playing.

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The Move to FBS: The Cons

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?

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The Move to FBS: The Pros

As with any major decision, you have to weigh the pros and cons before you make your move.  So, what are the pros to Appalachian moving up to FBS?  (These are in random order)

Money.  It’s very simple.  While a jump to FBS would definitely cost money, there’s much more to gain at the next level.  The increase in dollars would come a number of sources: 

Television revenue:  Regardless of the conference that Appalachian joins, FBS football gets more television exposure than FCS and would definitely result in higher payouts for the school.

Ticket sales:  With a move to FBS, the Mountaineers are more likely to get better home games which would create a greater demand for tickets at Kidd Brewer Stadium.  Sales have increased each year since our first national title and would likely grow with a move up. 

Booster donations:  When you’re asking people to open up their checkbooks to donate money to the school, you need to give them something of value in return for that donation.  With high-quality opponents and a greater demand for tickets, boosters would be much more willing to shell out the money. 

Multimedia revenue: Many of the BCS schools have signed multimedia deals with companies such as IMG and ISP that guarantee them figures as high as $4 million per year in exchange for the exclusive right to sell signage, marketing promotions and radio/television advertising.  A move to FBS might not result in a $4 million guarantee for the Apps, but the possibility of more money is definitely possible. 

Bowl payouts:  One of the biggest draws is the opportunity to compete in the bowl season.  Depending on which bowl Appalachian qualified for, the payouts could be pretty high. 

Better schedule – One of the problems Appalachian faces every season is finding quality non-conference opponents.  After the Michigan win, it’s difficult to find an FBS team that’s willing to pay the Mountaineers to come in and possibly beat them.  Quality FCS teams don’t want to come to Boone because of how consistently App wins at The Rock as well as the difficulty in beating the Mountaineers. 

Bowl games – One of the biggest draws to playing at the FBS level is the opportunity to participate in the bowl season.  Depending on conference affiliation or how well the Mountaineers rank, the money/media exposure could be a huge bonus for the school. 

Increased media exposure – As I mentioned above when I mentioned television revenue, playing at the FBS makes it more likely to see Appalachian on a major network.  A great possibility exists of seeing the Mountaineers’ highlights regularly on College Gameday and Sportscenter if we were at the FBS level.  Increased national media would benefit more than just athletics as the media attention could benefit the school itself as well. 

Better players – The increase in media exposure, better games, better facilities should all result in better players at Appalachian.  We can already recruit good enough players for our first team to be able to compete at the FBS level, but now we’d be able to improve our depth to last a full season, game in and game out playing at the top level. 

Respect – While it could be argued that we have earned the respect of the nation after our win over Michigan and our three consecutive national titles, I still think there’s a belief that while we could have our day every once in a while against the “big dogs” we couldn’t last a whole season.  I think moving to FBS and proving our success would silence many of the doubters. 

I’m sure there another positives to making the jump, but I believe these are some of the biggest benefits. 

When considering a move to FBS, you always want to look for the success stories.  One of the most prominent examples is Boise State.  The Broncos competed at the I-AA ranks from 1978 to 1995 as a member of the Big Sky Conference.  Boise State won four conference titles while they were a I-AA school and one national title in 1980.  Here’s an article from Rivals about the key to Boise State’s success at the next level

Could Appalachian duplicate the success of Boise State?  Just eleven years after they joined the FBS, the Broncos had won a BCS bowl.  The next post in this series will look at why a move would hurt and why we couldn’t duplicate the success of Boise State.

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Move to FBS: The Landscape

On August 9, 2007, the NCAA imposed a four-year moratorium on schools attempting to reclassify their divisional status. The moratorium will conclude on August 9, 2011. Programs are not allowed to begin an exploratory year for reclassification until the 2011-2012 academic year. They ARE allowed to seek membership in a new conference.

What does it take for an FCS school to move to the FBS level?   Continue reading

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Move to FBS: The Now

Here’s a quick snapshot of where Appalachian State athletics stands today:

On the Field

The powerhouse status of the Mountaineer football team has finally reached the attention of the national media. The win at Michigan immediately catapulted us into the national spotlight and gave a sense of legitimacy to the Football Championship Subdivision. In the last three seasons, the Mountaineers are 39-6, including a 12-game postseason winning streak. Appalachian is also the first school to win three consecutive national championships in the FCS.

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