Appalachian State football feasibility committee considering move to FBS; Sun Belt & C-USA possible destinations

BOONE, NC (Watauga Democrat) - The feasibility committee looking into the future of the Appalachian State football program met in Hickory Wednesday still wanting to gather all the facts and opinions it can before making a final recommendation as to whether the program should make a move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) status.

G.A. Sywassink, the co-chairman of the committee, said he is happy with the progress the committee is making towards reaching a decision, but said the committee is also moving slowly to make sure all facts and opinions are discovered before making a final recommendation to Chancellor Kenneth Peacock. The target date for that recommendation is in May.

Peacock is expected to make his recommendation to the ASU Board of Trustees by June.
"It's an important decision and one we have to take our time to make sure we've covered every angle on what needs to be covered," Sywassink said. "That's why we're going slow. We're not under the gun where we have to make a decision at a certain time. We want to feel good about the decision we make."

The committee was formed to determine if Appalachian State's football program could make a move from its current Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) status up to FBS status. The Mountaineers are currently members of the Southern Conference, an FCS league.

Sywassink said there has been some communication with FBS conferences, but did not say which ones those were. Appalachian State athletics director Charlie Cobb said in a meeting with the Faculty Senate in March that two FBS conferences, Conference USA and the Sun Belt, were possibilities.
But there has to be openings in each conference for the Mountaineers to go. Sywassink said just because Appalachian State wants to make a move to the FBS, it doesn't necessarily mean a spot will immediately open.

"We talked about if they would take a school such as ours, what would we need to do," Sywassink said. "We'll talk to anybody we can to give us input as to how the process might work."

Conference USA has 12 teams in it, including East Carolina, Marshall, Central Florida, Tulsa, Texas El Paso, Houston, Rice, Southern Methodist, Memphis, Alabama-Birmingham Southern Mississippi and Tulane.

Conference USA has bowl affiliations with the Liberty Bowl, Hawai'i Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, Military Bowl in 2012 and Ticket City Bowl in 2011 and 2013.

The teams that play football in the Sun Belt conference include Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, South Alabama, Troy and Western Kentucky. South Alabama begins football play in 2013.
Additional members of the conference include Arkansas-Little Rock and Denver, which is leaving to join the Western Athletic Conference in 2012.

The Sun Belt has automatic bowl tie-ins with the New Orleans Bowl and the Bowl. It also alternates wit the Big 12, the Big East, Big Ten, C-USA, MAC and the SEC for bids to the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, Independence Bowl, Bowl and Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl.

Last year, the Sun Belt sent three teams Troy, Florida International and Middle Tennessee to bowl games.

"We're now to the point where we've been talking to outside people of various conferences and getting a feeling if they think we'd fit with them and if it would be the right decision to move along," Sywassink said. "If there's no interest, than it's a moot point."

Sywassink said he's comfortable with the progress the committee is making.

"I think it's coming along very well," he said. "I've very comfortable with the progress up to this point with the information gathering."