Is Appalachian State – riding the wave of three national titles in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA) – considering a move to the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division 1-A)?
ASU athletic director Charlie Cobb said Thursday that he has given some thought to the idea, but that no decision will be forthcoming for at least two or three years.
“Right now we're pretty successful in what we're doing,” Cobb said. “Because of the winning, because of the excitement and how the school has been able to benefit from it, Appalachian is doing very well.
“Geography is always going to be the question that has to be answered for any kind of future growth. And the reality is that you could lose some of the excitement, some of the enthusiasm; when you look at some of those schools that have made the 1-AA to 1-A jump.”
Cobb was referring to universities that transitioned from a format in which they could hope to play for a football national championship each year into one in which their best hope is likely a trip to a minor bowl game.
An example is Marshall, at one time a dominant 1-AA but currently not a threat to attend a BCS bowl. The Thundering Herd, though, maintains a large base of enthusiastic fans and may be happy with its decision.
“I've never been to (Marshall),” Cobb said. “I want to sit down and talk with them, and say, ‘Y'all were in pretty much the situation we're in – why'd you do it; what did you learn from it?' I think we can use that one and some others as a long-term study for helping to tell us yes or no.”
Cobb said he would also like to study Clemson, which is located in a small town just as Appalachian is in Boone.
“Clemson is the model for us of handling 80,000 people in a small town six, eight, ten times a year – football games, graduation, whatever. You've got to get a bunch of people into town, let them stay for a day or two and then get them out without having gridlock.
“And frankly, we have some infrastructure challenges for trying to get people in and out.
“I'm not going to say the question's tough; the implementation is. Where (which league) are you going to go? Where are you going to get the money? How are you going to do it? Who's going to play you? How does it affect your other sports?”
Appalachian is in the process of expanding Kidd Brewer Stadium from 16,650 to 22,000 seats, an effort that will be completed by next season. Meanwhile, fans already overflow the arena – last year's average home attendance was a record 24,219. Such a total easily surpasses the FBS requirement of reaching an average of 15,000 at least once in a five-year period.
Still, many schools make the move in hopes of increasing public awareness. Cobb mentioned one in particular – no names, please – where that hasn't worked. He doesn't consider that a problem for Appalachian.
“So if you're not going to do it for university identity, then what are you going to do it for?” he said.
Cobb isn't averse to studying the issue.
“The only thought I've really given to it is, you've got to answer the facility question first,” he said. “And once we answer the facility question, we've got to answer the infrastructure question and then we've got to answer the financial questions, among others. So it's easily two or three years down the road before we have a serious conversation (on the subject).”
“As much as I like to think I'm important around here, the ultimate decision would come from the board of trustees and Ken (Chancellor Kenneth Peacock),” he said, “because that would be a university decision and not just an athletic decision.”