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ASU Feasibility Committee Recommends Move to FBS PDF Print
Written by Mike Flynn   
Tuesday, 23 August 2011 05:33

Appalachian State University’s athletics feasibility committee voted on Monday to recommend to ASU Chancellor Dr. Kenneth E. Peacock that, at some future point, Appalachian seek membership in an athletics conference that sponsors football in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

With signs pointing towards another significant shift in the Division I landscape, the committee held a conference call Monday to formally recommend that the time is right for Appalachian to make its intention to move to FBS known. A formal report of the committee’s findings and analysis will be finalized in the coming weeks.

Dr. Peacock will study the committee’s recommendation and make a recommendation of his own to the ASU Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees must approve any change in Appalachian athletics’ conference and/or football subdivision.  A timeline for transition from the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to FBS, including eligibility for conference championships, the NCAA Division I Football Championship and bowl games, would not be determined until Appalachian accepts membership in a new conference. 

The 11-member athletics feasibility committee determined through seven months of study and analysis that Appalachian is best suited for FBS as an institution and an athletics department. In addition to ASU’s unprecedented athletic success, the University’s enrollment of 17,000-plus, its academic philosophy and its strategic vision going forward more closely mirror FBS institutions than its current FCS counterparts.   

Committee co-chairperson G.A. Sywassink said, “The analysis of the facts is very clear that FBS is the right place for Appalachian athletics from an across-the-board institutional standpoint. A move to FBS mirrors Appalachian’s strategic vision as a nationally prominent institution and would enhance the University’s academic mission. The committee has worked to develop a blended financial model that ensures that the move would not be made on the backs of students.

“A move to FBS is not imminent. It is essential that we find a conference fit that creates rivalries and makes financial sense. However, with what appears to be another seismic shift in the Division I landscape on the horizon, the committee concluded that it is crucial to make our future intentions known at this time.”

The Mountaineers are already on par with FBS institutions in many respects. Since 2005, Appalachian has ranked 76th or higher each year among 240-plus Division I football programs (FBS and FCS combined) in the Sagarin computer ratings. ASU has also averaged 26,350 fans per regular-season football game, a mark which comes in at nearly 140 percent of Kidd Brewer Stadium’s average official seating capacity during that time. Last year, Appalachian’s average regular-season attendance was 29,449, which was higher than 43 FBS programs. 

ASU’s athletic success has not been limited to the gridiron. Over the past five years, Appalachian has earned two postseason National Invitation Tournament berths and appeared in a total of four national postseason tournaments in men’s and women’s basketball, earned a top-50 Ratings Percentage Index ranking in baseball and sent individual athletes to NCAA national competitions in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and wrestling. 

Appalachian athletics received approval from the University’s Board of Trustees in September 2010 to evaluate its options with regards to the changing Division I landscape. ASU contracted Collegiate Consulting LLC (formerly NACDA Consulting) to conduct an independent study of Appalachian’s options within Division I and the athletics feasibility committee was formed in January to analyze the study’s findings. Committee members also considered feedback from dozens of focus groups within the ASU and local communities. 

ASU director of athletics Charlie Cobb said, “First of all, I can’t thank the 11 members of the athletics feasibility committee enough for the time, effort and passion that they have put into their analysis over the last seven months.

 “The committee has done its due diligence and I agree with their assessment. ASU has been a Division I institution for 40 years with a proven record of success on and off the field. Should Appalachian be provided with the right opportunity within the changing Division I landscape, I agree that Mountaineer athletics can excel across the board at the FBS level.  

“However, this is just a first step towards a possible move. The goals of our teams — to compete for Southern Conference and national championships —will not change in the meantime.”

Appalachian football coach Jerry Moore added, “I trust and respect our administration and all of the hard work that they and the committee have put into this issue over the past several months. I fully support the recommendation of the committee and have no doubt that they have the best interests of Appalachian and our athletics department and football program in mind.

“However, this recommendation does not change our focus as players and coaches one bit — it remains fully on preparing to play Virginia Tech on Sept. 3 and going on to compete for a seventh-straight Southern Conference championship.”  

ASU Athletics Feasibility Committee Members
*G.A. Sywassink (Chairman and retired CEO of Standard Holding Corporation)
*Larry Stone (President and COO of Lowe’s Corporation)
Eric Barnes (ASU Student Government Association representative)
John Blackburn (President, Linville Resorts, Inc.)
Mark Harrill (President, Foscoe Companies)
Jay Howard (President, JHE Production Group)
Derek Jenkins (Senior Vice President, Target Stores)
Doug Johnson (CEO, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation)
Jeffrey A. Shepard (Retired CEO, Footstar)
Tommy Sofield (CEO, U.S. Buildings)
Brad Wilson (CEO, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina)
* Co-chairpersons

APPALACHIAN STATE ATHLETICS FEASIBILITY COMMITTEE FBS RECOMMENDATION FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why did the athletics feasibility committee recommend that Appalachian seek membership in a conference that sponsors football in the NCAA Division I FBS?

As an institution and an athletics department, the committee determined that Appalachian is best suited for FBS. In addition to ASU’s unprecedented athletic success, the University’s enrollment of 17,000-plus, its academic philosophy and its strategic vision going forward more closely mirror FBS institutions than its current FCS counterparts.   

When will ASU to move to NCAA Division I FBS?

A move is not imminent. The athletics feasibility committee has recommended to Chancellor Dr. Kenneth E. Peacock that at some point in the future, Appalachian seek membership in an athletics conference that sponsors football in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). However, that is only a first step towards ultimately becoming an FBS member. 

The next step is for Chancellor Peacock to formulate his own recommendation to present to the ASU Board of Trustees. Should the Chancellor pass the committee’s recommendation to the Board of Trustees, the BOT will have to vote to approve any change in Appalachian’s conference affiliation and/or football subdivision.   Finally, Appalachian must find a suitable fit in a conference that does or will sponsor football in the FBS. A suitable conference must create rivalries that are essential to the culture of college athletics and make financial sense.  

What conference will ASU wind up in if it moves to FBS?

Should Chancellor Peacock and the Board of Trustees ultimately approve the committee’s recommendation, Appalachian will consider all options when it comes to conference affiliation, whether it be existing FBS conferences or conferences with FBS aspirations. A suitable conference would have institutions that are similar to ASU both academically (in terms of enrollment and academic philosophy, athletically (in terms of revenue, facilities and success on the playing fields and in the classroom) and geographically, which will allow for formation of rivalries that are essential to the culture of college athletics.  

Can Appalachian be competitive in an FBS conference?

Appalachian can be very successful across the board in an FBS conference. ASU is already on par with many FBS institutions in terms of facilities, revenue and on- and off-field success.  

Just looking at on-field achievements since 2005, Appalachian has placed in the top 76 in the Division I football Sagarin Ratings (combining FBS and FCS teams) all six years, has earned two postseason National Invitation Tournament berths and appeared in a total of four national postseason tournaments in men’s and women’s basketball, earned a top-50 Ratings Percentage Index ranking in baseball and sent individual athletes to NCAA national competitions in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and wrestling.

Additionally, ASU’s average regular-season football home attendance of 29,449 in 2010 was higher than 43 FBS programs. 

With the increased prestige and revenue that come with membership in an FBS conference, Appalachian is poised to become even more competitive than it already is in the Division I landscape. 

Will it cost more money to move to FBS?

Yes. According to the committee’s analysis, ASU athletics will have to raise its yearly budget by about $6 million for its teams to be viable in an FBS conference. However, the committee concluded that a move to FBS would open new revenue streams to cover the costs, including increased ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, donations and funds dispersed by conferences to member institutions from television rights fees, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament shares and the Bowl Championship Series and other bowl games. 

In the coming weeks, the athletics feasibility committee will finalize its report with complete financial analysis of a potential move. 

With the state of North Carolina’s current budget crunch, why spend more money on athletics now?

With the changing landscape of Division I athletics, the window of opportunity to enhance the University’s growth for decades to come is now.

By law, ASU athletics does not receive state appropriations or tax-payer dollars and any additional spending on athletics would not take away from the University’s academic budget. 

Additionally, data shows that FBS athletic departments use a substantially smaller percentage of their total spending from direct and indirect institutional support than those at the FCS level. A recent NCAA study shows that direct and indirect institutional support as a funding source for athletics is approximately 20 percent in the FBS and 72 percent in the FCS. Just over half of ASU’s current athletics budget is funded by indirect institutional support (student fees).

Since the beginning of its analysis, the athletics feasibility committee has been committed to recommending a move only if it positively affects the academic role of the University and without substantial increases to student fees. The committee believes that its blended financial model achieves both objectives.

In the meantime, will Appalachian continue to be eligible for Southern Conference championships in all sports? Will the Mountaineers continue to be eligible to compete in the NCAA Division I Football Championship?

Yes. Appalachian will remain a full-fledged member of the Southern Conference and NCAA Division I FCS for at least 2011-12 and its goal of winning SoCon titles and competing for NCAA postseason berths in all sports — including the quest for a fourth FCS national championship — will not change.  

A timeline for transition from FCS to FBS, including eligibility for conference championships, the NCAA Division I Football Championship and bowl games, would not be determined until Appalachian accepts membership in a new conference.

 

 

  
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