Is The Sunbelt Coming Back to JSU?

Tony Barnhart at has written a fascinating article about changes that may be ahead in big time college football. The premise of the article is that the SEC, Big 10, etc., may be headed for a super-league and the lower rung of what was formerly known as 1-A (i.e., the Sun Belt and MAC) may be headed towards a play-off. Barnhart even speculates that you could see a division where the OVC and Sun Belt would be competing for the same football championship.

Of particular interest in the article are comments from Appalachian State’s AD about their approach to this situation. Here is an excerpt:


“Cobb is the athletic director at Appalachian State University, one of the very best programs in Division I-AA (due to public confusion over the labels, we don’t use the official NCAA designations FBS and FCS). The Mountaineers of Jerry Moore won three straight national championships from 2005-2007 and have led the nation in Division I-AA attendance (at 28,000-plus) three times in the last four years.

In case you are wondering, in 2010 a total of 32 of the 120 Division I-A teams averaged less in home attendance than Appalachian State. In fact, 23 Division I-A schools averaged less than 20,000 in attendance last season.

“When we look at the WAC, the MAC, the Sun Belt and the others we compare very favorably to what they are doing,” Cobb said. “So we decided that if things change dramatically we need to be prepared.”

Last September the school announced the formation of a committee that would conduct a feasibility study to determine if they should go Division I-A. Originally that committee was going to give a recommendation in May. That announcement has been postponed. Appalachian State wants to wait for several reasons, and one of those is to see what is going to happen in the upper level of Division I-A football.

“What the Big Ten said last week got everybody’s attention,” said Cobb, a former football player at N.C. State. “What it really showed is that the gap in college football is not between Division I-A and I-AA. It’s between the BCS schools and everybody else Division I-A.”

Cobb said there are a number of schools like Appalachian State who have had very good success at the I-AA level and who wonder where they need to be if there is a major upheaval in the college football landscape. For example: What if the BCS schools split from the rest of Division I-A? What happens to rest of the division?

“I like to look at the math. And when you look at the math, we are a lot closer to East Carolina [a member of Division I-A Conference USA] than East Carolina is to the ACC,” said Cobb.

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