Reports have flooded the sports world this past weekend that UConn will be leaving the AAC to rejoin its long time conference the Big East. Ultimately this is a basketball central move over a football move, something you don’t see too often in 2019.
2020 will mark the beginning of a new era in UConn football as they will be out of the AAC. The question that everyone has on their mind is “who will replace UConn”?
Enter the Appalachian State Mountaineers who have held down the Sun Belt pretty well since arriving back in 2014. Here are three reasons why adding App State to the AAC makes sense.
1. Success Since Arriving to FBS
2014 was the first year of full FBS membership for Appalachian State. Fast forward to 2019, and since that time the Mountaineers have posted a 48-16 record, including going 4-0 in bowl games and winning at least a share of three straight Sun Belt championships. The numbers speak for themselves as last year App State had a top 15 offense and a top 10 defense and with many of the same players returning on both sides of the ball hopes are high again this year.
Almost any addition based around football is an upgrade from UConn and to run the numbers based on 11 game simulations, App State would be projected to beat UConn 10 out of 11 times by an average score of 42-15 using each schools 2018-19 squad as a baseline. App breaks even 50%-50% with simulations against UCF and wins 60%-40% over Memphis based on the simulations. App has also showed they can play with the big boys since arriving to the FBS as they have pushed Tennessee, Wake Forest and Penn State down to the wire or OT in the last three seasons.
A chance for Appalachian to play against the likes of UCF, Memphis, Cincinnati and ECU every year in the east division only makes things even more attractive. Football drives the bus and based on that narrative App State firmly qualifies for the AAC.
2. A Chance To Grow the Sports Outside Football
Outside of the market size the school is located in, this may be the toughest sell on App State joining the AAC. Outside of football, the Mountaineers don’t really have anything they are nationally recognized for. Men’s basketball and baseball haven’t posted a winning season since joining the Sun Belt in 2014. Women’s basketball had their best season since the move to the Sun Belt this past year, winning the CBI postseason tournament. Softball has had only one winning season since the move from SoCon to Sun Belt.
A move to the AAC would be a chance to grow for the sports outside of football at App State, starting with basketball. Last seasons the AAC had 8 of its 12 teams finish above .500, while the Sun Belt only had 6 teams over .500 despite AAC non-conference scheduling being collectively better.
The American also gives basketball a better shot at a NCAA tourney bid because the Sun Belt rarely generates more than one bid to the Big Dance. The same cases can be made in baseball and softball, as the AAC just has better national exposure possibility than the Sun Belt. It may take a few years but overall the secondary sports at App State could see collective growth with better TV deals, improved scheduling, and post season opportunities.
3.Football Fan Base
Lets cap things off with giving credit where credit is due. App nation has made no bones about showing up each and every Saturday to support the Mountaineers at “The Rock”. App State has led the Sun Belt in average attendance twice since 2016, with crowds of over 26,000 in 2016 and over 25,000 in 2017.
Wherever App State plays they have a good showing on the road and showcased that with a large fan outing last year at Penn State and being the dominate fan base at both UNCC and Coastal Carolina. App is also adding 1,000 new club section seats with a new end zone project.
Despite being one home game short in 2018 after a weather cancellation, App State still averaged more people per game than UConn, Tulane, Tulsa and SMU. Only sitting in a 30,000 seat stadium may slightly hinder the Apps, but adding 3 to 5 thousand more seats could be a possibility after the new end zone project is complete in 2020.
App State fans are die-hards that love this team as much as any fan base across the country. Between the tailgate scene and the rabid reaction the team gets every time they make a big play, the following is something The American would have to take notice of. Without a doubt, the addition of App State would make for a juggernaut when it comes to conference football fan bases.