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How high will Appalachian State shoot?

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If Appalachian State University officials wanted to know how its recommendation to pursue a move to the Football Bowl Subdivision would be received, it occurred before - not after - the announcement was made on Monday.

By 4:30 a.m., the first three of about 600 students began lining up on campus to shell out $48 a ticket for the Mountaineers' season-opening game at Virginia Tech on Sept. 3.

Had the university allowed camping out the day before fall classes began on Tuesday, students would have pulled their first all-nighter of the semester.

Surely, big games and big bucks appear to be a part of ASU's future. For several years now, no program in the Football Championship Subdivision has been better suited for the jump to the FBS than the Southern Conference power.

It's probably a formality that ASU's chancellor and board of trustees will approve the recommendation of the 11-member athletics feasibility committee, which ended a seven-month study with Monday's announcement.

As ASU athletics director Charlie Cobb said on a conference call Tuesday, the university has to declare its intentions and then "figure out where the (college athletic) world's going."

To Cobb, the financial divide that exists in Division I athletics is not between the FBS and FCS, but between the BCS conferences and the rest of Division I.

So there's no doubt where ASU would want to be on that divide.


Appalachian State won three straight FCS national titles under head coach Jerry Moore from 2005-07.
It's long been felt that ASU, the FCS national champion under head coach Jerry Moore for three straight years from 2005-07, has nothing else to prove on the level formerly known as NCAA Division I-AA and that it would move - or, according to official terms, "reposition" - to the FBS, presumably to Conference USA or, to a lesser degree, the Sun Belt Conference.

But when you consider ASU football wins as much as any Division I program, had an average regular-season attendance (29,449) last year that was higher than 43 FBS programs and has since expanded Kidd Brewer Stadium, may, just maybe, the university hopes an even bigger opportunity will come along - whether directly or in a two-step move of conferences.

You didn't need an earthquake on the Atlantic Coast on Tuesday to realize what conference would offer ASU the biggest and best opportunity.

"We look very much like an FBS program in a lot of different metrics," Cobb said.

"We have some aspirations if things were to go the right direction. We're going to work and see if we can identify some opportunities, but also I think part of the strategy frankly was to let people know that we have these aspirations and doing it in an official capacity."

"If we're going to contemplate a step like this and not be competitive in the future, it would be the silliest thing in the world," added G.A. Sywassink, the feasibility committee co-chairperson. "We think we can in fact do that or we wouldn't go ahead with this decision."

Cobb feels the difference between FCS programs that succeeded or didn't succeed after moving to the FBS level is in the way they built rivalries afterward, allowing alumni and fans to develop a connection to an entirely new set of opponents. Ultimately, that means people will pay the higher prices for the higher level of competition - ala Appalachian State-Virginia Tech.

The Mountaineers program could have natural rivalries in Conference USA such as East Carolina and Marshall. If it ever landed on the other side of the rainbow with an ACC pot of gold, there's potential rivalries with the likes of North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.

Sure dreams of the ACC might be far-fetched outside Boone, N.C., but did you believe in recent years that Nebraska would be hanging with Michigan and Ohio State instead of Oklahoma and Texas or that TCU would fit smack in the Big East?

So it's worth ASU's while to see how the Atlantic Coast turns, so to speak.

Cobb says the feasibility committee wanted to make its announcement before ASU's season opener and not distract from the season ahead. But opening with a game against Virginia Tech seems ideal to the level the Mountaineers aspire to reach in the future.

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at
chaley@sportsnetwork.com.


Follow Craig Haley on Twitter and Facebook.

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