Ever since starting the job in March, Appalachian State Athletic Director Doug Gillin has been a busy man. One of his top priorities is helping to create football schedules that excite the Mountaineer fanbase. A home and home series with Marshall in 2021 and 2022 is one of those additions and Gillin is now working on another one.
In Sunday's Winston-Salem Journal, App State Atheltic Director Doug Gillin talked about how he believes ECU AD Jeff Compher is warm to the idea of the two schools playing.
"We’d absolutely love to play ECU, we’d absolutely love to play them," Gillin said. "I’ve had conversations with their athletic director, and I think they’re amenable to playing — we’re just trying to find dates."
It's not surprising to see the two schools explore the possibility of playing each other. ECU hosted App State as an FCS opponent in 2009 and 2012 and won both games. App State holds a 19-12 series lead despite ECU winning the last six and eight of the last nine. Both schools were in the Southern Conference during the 70's and played every year from 1948 to 1962 as members of the NAIA's North State Conference. Now as an FBS vs FBS match-up, the game could be made into a series.
Further down the article, Gillin also brings up the idea of a neutral site game.
"That could include neutral site games that our fan-bases want to see, and it certainly will include regional schools that we really want to play and hopefully, they’ll come back and play us and vice versa," he said.
Charlotte would figure to be among the most attractive locations.
"Yes, absolutely," Gillin said. "We’re doing some work now talking to different venues about playing neutral site games. We talk about building a brand, we want to go play. We want to go play where our fans can come watch us."
An ECU vs App State game in Charlotte has long been speculated. However it only could realistically be done once App State moved to FBS, which they did in 2014.
As a neutral site, Charlotte makes the most sense. While not perfectly in-between the two schools, it's the only stadium in North and South Carolina with over 30,000 seats not belonging to an ACC or SEC school. Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers, seats 74,445 people and was just upgraded with new scoreboards, amenities and easier wi-fi in effort to bid on a Super Bowl.
The stadium is roughly 100 miles from App State and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area has more App State alums than another other city.
ECU is no stranger to Charlotte as the Pirates have made the 250-mile trip to BoA Stadium five times since the facility opened in 1996; against NC State in both 1996 and 2004 (win and a loss), West Virginia in 1999 (win), 2008 versus Virginia Tech (win) and 2011 versus South Carolina (loss).
The desire for ECU to play regional non-conference games comes from a lack of such games in conference. Since joining Conference USA in 1997 and subsequently the American in 2014, ECU has never had a conference opponent in-state. Their closest conference opponent is the Naval Academy just over 300 miles away. However, Navy elected to join the West Division of the AAC and thus won't play the Pirates every season. The closest full member in the East Division is Temple, who is over 400 miles away.
The same now holds true for Appalachian State, whose closest Sun Belt opponent is Georgia State, 300 miles away.
Looking at the schedules, both teams are full in 2016. ECU has one opening in 2017 but App State doesn't. Both teams have holes to fill in 2018 and beyond, however. So unless there's some shuffling of other non-conference games, a perspective series is still three years off. That gives Appalachian State time to expand 21,650-seat Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone to help host bigger non-conference opponents, such as ECU.