The athletics department’s Strategic Plan outlined the future of Appalachian State University athletics and mentioned that the university is looking to move up to NCAA Division I-A.
Under “Athletics Department Vision,” the Strategic Plan stated that athletics plans to “utiliz[e] the criteria established by the Athletics Feasibility Committee, join a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference.”
This is reaffirmed under “Opportunities” stating “the evolving landscape of NCAA conference realignments provides us a chance to move to a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference based on criteria established by the Athletics Feasibility Committee.”
Along with emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and documents from Georgia Southern released on appstatenation.com, a map shows Appalachian being a part of the Sun Belt conference.
John Miller, an Appalachian alumnus and founder of appstatenation.com, said the biggest thing his released documents revealed was that what the athletic department has said so far has been true.
“They can say one thing to the public and say another thing behind doors, but it looks like in the emails that they said the same thing to both,” Miller said. “They’re saying that nothing is happening right now because there’s kind of a pause to see what the Big East does. It just confirms that what they were telling us was the truth and they aren’t hiding anything.”
Vice Chancellor for Student Development Cindy Wallace said that despite the feasibility study, no conference has invited Appalachian to join.
“Right now, no one has invited us to their dance,” Wallace said. “We want to be invited, I think that was the consensus of the feasibility study.”
“When UNC-Charlotte was invited to Conference USA and we weren’t, I think it hurt our feelings,” Wallace said. “We felt like we have more to offer, particularly since I think most people will tell you football is driving those market decisions and not basketball.”
Miller agreed that App State was hurt, but said the decision was a product of the times.
“When [Charlotte was] invited, we still had the BCS,” Miller said. “We didn’t even have this BCS playoffs. Back then, the emphasis was on TV and money and they had history with the conference and are known for basketball. They are growing as a school and are in a major city, so they have a lot of things going for them.”
Miller said that the TV markets gave UNC-C the nod instead of Appalachian.
“When you look at it today, while TV markets are still important, but performance is going to be very important, money-wise, in the new system,” Miller said. “This is why I think the Sun Belt isn’t really concerned anymore with markets and are more concerned with performance.”
Miller said if the decision was made today, it could have gone in Appalachian’s favor.
“I think they have everything ready to go to add us and I think they will eventually, but they’re waiting until the last minute to announce it, just in case something crazy happens with the Big East,” Miller said.
Story: STEPHANIE SANSOUCY, Senior News Reporter and ANDREW CLAUSEN, Sports Editor