October 4th, 1997 was a great day for East Tennessee State. On that day, the Bucs made the journey over the border to Boone, North Carolina and exploded for a 20-point fourth quarter en route to a 51-28 win over Appalachian State.
Both teams finished the season 7-4 and tied for second in the Southern Conference, but after that year, the trajectories of each program would radically change. In the next six seasons, ETSU wouldn't win more than six games in a season while the Mountaineers never won fewer than seven in that same time span, which included five trips to the I-AA (now FCS) playoffs.
Also, during those six seasons, App State beat ETSU every time. The last, a nice 21-7 home win for App State in 2003, was in a year where ETSU was facing a terrible reality. After the season, the Bucs were shutting down the football program. Soon after, ETSU was booted from the Southern Conference.
Meanwhile, with a new spread option offense, the Mountaineers won three I-AA/FCS National Championships in a row from 2005 to 2007 and won seven SoCon Championships from 2005 to 2012. Then in 2014, FBS and the Sun Belt called and App State was moving on up.
As the Apps were moving up, ETSU was preparing to start over. After 12 years dormant, the Bucs returned to the field and the SoCon in 2015.
This past week, the schools announced that the old rivalry, which was played every year from 1969 to 2003, would return in 2019 and 2014.
With App State an FBS team and ETSU an FCS team, the game has a different dynamic. There will be pride and familiarity, but it won't be a pivotal conference game in October or November, but rather a money game and season opener.