Tag Archives: FCS

David Coulson interview, Part II

Here’s the concluding questions to my Q&A with David Coulson. If you missed Part I, click here. Enjoy!

GFWA: Give me your diagnosis on the health/state of FCS right now.

DC: I think FCS has never been healthier. You have new teams coming into the subdivision every year and a number of programs making significant upgrades to facilities and others adding scholarship dollars. You have more exposure than ever before on television. It has been truly amazing to see how the attention that FCS receives has grown in the past 15 years. TV games, particularly in other regions of the country, were hard to find in the past. I love it that you can see almost any important game in FCS you want to see televised on a given weekend.

GFWA: Are dynasties such as Appalachian bad for the competitiveness of the division?

DC: You have had dynasties throughout the history of FCS. This is just the latest one. Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Southern, Youngstown State, Marshall and Montana have all had their time at the top. I think when you have a team vault its program above other programs that it forces the other programs to improve to keep pace. ASU’s success has also helped FCS gain more exposure than ever before and it has helped turn the championship game in Chattanooga into a special event.

GFWA: Who are the biggest challengers to App’s throne?

DC: I think someone from the Colonial Athletic Association will emerge over the course of the year. Richmond and James Madison have tremendous talent coming back and Massachusetts is hungry to return to the championship game after getting there in 2006. Villanova is a young team that should emerge as a special team this year. Eastern Washington is very talented and could be dangerous after last year’s playoff run. I’m not sure who will win the Missouri Valley Football Conference (formerly the Gateway), but one of those teams (Northern Iowa, Youngstown State, Western Illinois, Southern Illinois, North Dakota State or South Dakota State) will be in the mix when the playoffs roll around. McNeese State and Cal Poly are outside threats, though Cal Poly must survive a brutal schedule. Northern Arizona is another potential dark horse.

GFWA: What are key FCS games that will shape this year’s playoff picture?

DC: Some of the ones I have my eyes on are Richmond at Elon (the game I’ll be at the first weekend), Montana at Cal Poly, Cal Poly at McNeese State, Montana at Eastern Washington, North Dakota State at Northern Iowa, all of the games involving Richmond, JMU, Villanova and Delaware in the competitive South Division of the CAA and UMass at James Madison and at home against Richmond. The game everyone wants to see, of course, is Appalachian State at James Madison on Sept. 20. I can’t wait for that one.

GFWA: FCS playoff expansion: good or bad?

DC: I am a bit of a traditionalist and I thought the 16-team playoff was perfect for FCS. However, with the growth of the subdivision, change was inevitable. You have to make room for conferences like the Big South and the Northeast. I think it will be expanded within four or five years to 24 teams. I hope that expansion includes the Ivy League deciding to accept an automatic bid. That would be great for FCS and would increase the exposure and prestige of the subdivision in ways that people would be shocked by. Can you imagine a playoff game being played at the Yale Bowl, Harvard Stadium or Penn’s historic Franklin Field. It would make for great television and would get tons of attention from the major press.

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David Coulson interview, Part I

David Coulson, FCS Executive Director for The Sports Network, took some time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer a few question about the Mountaineers and FCS in general.  He wrote Magic on the Mountain, a book about the Apps’ first national title in 2005. I consider him an expert on all things FCS.

Here’s Part I of the interview:

GFWApps: Is a 4Peat possible? What’s going to be the biggest obstacle to another national title?

David Coulson: Appalachian State is the clear favorite for another championship, and in my opinion, this team has a chance to be even better than any of the previous three championship teams. The biggest obstacle is health. The Mountaineers were really challenged in terms of health last year after getting through the 2006 season with very few health concerns. You also must have an element of luck. In 2005, ASU had some breaks fall their way and the same thing happened last season.

GFWA: What do you expect from the offense without K. Richardson and D. Jackson?

DC: Kevin Richardson had a great career at Appalachian State and will always be one of my favorite players. He was such a classy, genuinely nice kid. But at the same time, ASU has a lot of depth at running back. Devon Moore has proven to be a capable player in his first two years and may even be a bit faster than K-Rich. It will also be interesting to see how ASU uses Devin Radford this season. He could be a real game-breaker. The other backs are also solid.

Dexter Jackson was quite a talent and was, in my opinion, under-utilized at ASU. But ASU probably has more talent at wide receiver than any other position on the field. They can go three deep at any of the receiver positions right now and hardly miss a beat. If James Hill can improve his hands and cut down on mistakes, he has the talent and speed to give ASU the same type of deep threat as Jackson did. CoCo Hillary and T.J. Courman are excellent play-makers in the slot and Brian Quick is going to be a great target with his size and ability. He is a future star. Also, don’t overlook Josh Johnson as an excellent possession receiver.

I actually think that the toughest player to replace of the seniors is guard Kerry Brown. He is the most dominant offensive lineman the Mountaineers have ever had and a player of his talent and size doesn’t find its way to a place like ASU very often.
GFWA: Is it possible for Armanti to get better?
DC: There are still a lot of things that Armanti can improve on and I would expect this to be a year where we really see him develop some of his less-polished skills. He is still learning how to read defenses and his decision making can get a lot better. He gets himself in trouble sometimes by forcing throws into coverage (something most young quarterbacks do) and he has a tendency to keep the ball sometimes on the read option when he should hand the ball off. The biggest thing is for him to cut down on his turnovers. When he does that, the ASU offense is going to be close to unstoppable. The great thing about Armanti is he is such a teachable kid. He doesn’t have a huge ego. He works hard and he listens. Having Trey Elder, who has been like a personal quarterback coach the past two years, back as a graduate assistant is also great for Armanti.
GFWA: How will the losses of Lynch and Tharrington affect the defense?
DC: You are not going to replace Lynch. He probably has the best football instincts of any player I have covered in 32 years of working around college football. Lynch has a God-given talent for being in the right place at the right time. I think that ASU has recruited some talented kids in the secondary and will be okay back there, though replacing Lynch and Jerome Touchstone will be hard. It’s not easy to replace the experience of four-year starters. What helps the youngsters is the fact that ASU has really improved on the defensive line and that will help them take some pressure off the youngsters in the secondary. Fortunately, too, Cortez Gilbert and Leonard Love earned some good experience last year to help the others.
GFWA: What do you see the facility improvements at App doing for the program?
DC: It will help with recruiting and it will make the game-day environment even better. These are things that have been talked about and planned in one way or another since the 1970s. The new locker rooms and support facilities will help everyone in the program do their jobs better. Eventually, I see Kidd Brewer Stadium increasing to 30,000 seats and that might help draw more quality programs into Boone for games.
GFWA: Do you think these titles and wins have built a solid foundation of fan support that could survive a sub-par season or do you think attendance and support would revert back to pre-championship levels?

DC: I don’t see ASU having a sub-par season any time soon with the recruiting that is in place. ASU is going to be quite strong at the FCS level as long as the recruiting continues. Montana, Georgia Southern and Delaware are really the only other programs at this level with the type of resources to match ASU right now. North Dakota State might get there in the future. We’ve seen some of those teams have continued success, so there is no reason to think ASU can’t continue its success, even after Jerry Moore retires in a couple of years. There are plenty former ASU assistants that have the backgrounds to come in and keep things going.

If for some reason ASU had a bad year, I think the fans would still support them. But if the Mountaineers started missing the playoffs, you would probably see some of the new fans get disenchanted.

GFWA: Is it possible for App to beat LSU?

DC: I was at the ASU-LSU game in 2005 when a less-talented Mountaineer team played a much-more-talented Tiger team virtually even for three quarters. Those of us who regularly covered ASU knew right then that ASU was going to win the 2005 national championship. LSU will be much better prepared for ASU than Michigan was, but the Tigers are still beatable. ASU’s defensive line must find a way to keep the LSU running game in check. The Tigers will try to pound the ball, something that Michigan should have done more last year. With LSU’s inexperience at quarterback, ASU can be successful defensively if it can force LSU to pass. It is also important for Armanti and the offense to get off to a quick start and build confidence. I don’t see any reason why ASU can’t put some points on the scoreboard, if Armanti can stay on the field.

I’ll post Part II of the interview later which includes questions about the general health and state of FCS as well as who the top challengers are to the Apps’ throne.

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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: 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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