It appears the college conference realignment carrousel has finally reached Boone.
According to a report in the Winston-Salem Journal, Appalachian State will join the Sun Belt Conference, moving the Mountaineers’ football program up to the sport’s highest level – the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision.
It’s a move Appalachian has been aiming for since 2011, when a school feasibility committee recommended the football program make the jump from the Southern Conference, which plays at the lower Football Championship Subdivision.
A spokesman at Appalachian State said officials would have no comment on the move to the Sun Belt, which could come later this week, according to the Journal.
Another Southern Conference school, Georgia Southern, is also reportedly moving to the Sun Belt, which has lost several members recently.
The additions of Appalachian and Georgia Southern would eventually bring the number of Sun Belt football-playing schools to 10, joining Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy and Western Kentucky.
Although it is uncertain when Appalachian would leave for the Sun Belt, the Mountaineers will join Charlotte as the Carolinas’ newest FBS members. The 49ers, who are beginning football this coming season, will play two seasons as FCS independents before going to the FBS Conference USA in 2015 (the school’s other sports are joining the league in 2013-14).
Appalachian had also pursued Conference USA membership, but was turned down because of its relatively small media and television market, a reason that frustrated Mountaineers athletics director Charlie Cobb.
In addition to Charlotte, Conference USA is also adding several former Sun Belt schools this school year: Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State and North Texas.
Appalachian State has been a member of the Southern Conference since 1971. Only three current Southern Conference members – Davidson, Furman and The Citadel – have been in the league longer than the Mountaineers.
Appalachian has won 12 Southern Conference football championships, including at least a share of seven of the past eight. The Mountaineers won three consecutive FCS titles from 2005-07 and beat Michigan in 2007 in one of college football’s great upsets.
George Mason to A-10
In other realignment news Monday, the Atlantic 10 announced it will add George Mason, currently in the Colonial Athletic Association, in 2013-14. The A-10 is facing the losses of Charlotte to Conference USA, Temple to what’s now the football (and yet unnamed)-portion of the Big East and Xavier and Butler to the new basketball-only Big East.