NEW ORLEANS – Appalachian State University has accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference and will become a member in all sports beginning July 1, 2014. The conference office announced the new addition on Wednesday afternoon.
With the previously announced addition of Georgia Southern on Wednesday morning, the additions of the two new institutions gives the Sun Belt Conference a lineup of 10 football playing institutions and 12 all sports members.
"Appalachian State University adds value to the Sun Belt Conference academically and athletically, plus it fits well in our league's southeastern geographic footprint," said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor of Troy University and President of the Sun Belt Conference Executive Committee. "ASU offers a well-rounded athletics program and has one of the premier FCS football programs in the nation. Appalachian State is a welcome addition to a growing conference."
Appalachian State has had a highly successful football program and will begin the process of transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) immediately. The 2014 Sun Belt football season will mark the debut of the Mountaineers in the league schedule and standings. Additionally, the Mountaineers will be able to compete for the league championship in football for the 2014 season. They will first be eligible to compete in a spot for a postseason bowl game come the 2015 season.
"I am proud that Appalachian has this opportunity to compete in the Sun Belt Conference," Appalachian State Chancellor Dr. Kenneth E. Peacock said. "Our student-athletes have earned the opportunity to participate at this level of collegiate athletics and we welcome the new academic and athletic relationships that will develop as a result of this partnership."
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Appalachian State offers a challenging academic environment, energetic campus life and breathtaking location. Appalachian combines the best attributes of a small liberal arts college with those of a large research university. Known for its value and affordability, Appalachian enrolls nearly 18,000 students and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors. Appalachian State University remains third among top public regional universities in the South and retains 10th place among the top regional universities in the South, according to U.S. News and World Report's 2013 America's Best Colleges Guide.
This past season, Appalachian State averaged 27,964 fans per regular-season home game in Kidd Brewer Stadium – leading Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs in regular-season attendance for the sixth-consecutive year. The Mountaineer football team also brought home the 2005, 2006 and 2007 FCS National Championships.
"This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Appalachian State join us," said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson. "This is an institution with teams that compete at the highest level and an administration committed to providing a quality education to its students."
The Sun Belt Conference will contest the 2013 football season with eight members – Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy and Western Kentucky University. UALR and UT Arlington compete as non-football members.