The ever-changing landscape of college sports hit closer to home on Wednesday with the official announcement that Appalachian State University will leave the Southern Conference and became a full member of the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
With this move, ASU will see its football team move from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision, a move that has been in the works since a feasibility committee study recommended the move in August of 2011.
“Today is a starting point for us,” said Director of Athletics, Charlie Cobb. “Appalachian State deserves to be associated with the top tier institutions in our state and region.”
The issue of moving up to the FBS has been debated for several years, and as Cobb pointed out, the issue will continue to be debated both on and off campus.
According to Cobb, the move to the Sun Belt Conference will bring in between $4 and $6 million dollars in additional revenue.
Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson was also on hand for this monumental day in Appalachian State athletics.
“The Sun Belt wants to build a conference that makes sense. Appalachian State was a perfect fit from an academic, athletic and geographical standpoint,” said Benson. “In my opinion, it was an easy choice for the Sun Belt.
Benson also hinted that the Sun Belt plans to add two more schools to get the conference up to 12 football schools and that announcement could be taking place very soon.
The Sun Belt conference has been in existence since 1976 and has been playing football since 2001. Overall, the conference features 18 sports.
Since Appalachian State offers 20 sports programs, a pair of sports will remain competing in the Southern Conference for the foreseeable future, according to Cobb. Mountaineer wrestling and men’s soccer will not see a change in its opponents.
A pair of drawbacks to the move is that Appalachian State’s football team will not be eligible to compete in the FCS playoffs during the 2013 season and the school must pay a significant exit fee to the Southern Conference.
The Mountaineers will officially join the Sun Belt on July 1, 2014.
SoCon rival Georgia Southern also announced on Wednesday that they will be joining the same conference.
Overall, the Sun Belt has confirmed they are adding five teams by 2014 to join the teams they already have. Along with ASU and Georgia Southern, the Sun Belt will also add Georgia State, Texas State and the University of Texas-Arlington. Current members include Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas-Little Rock, South Alabama, Western Kentucky and Troy University.