Georgia Southern, Appalachian State Joining the Sun Belt Conference

By M. Shannon Smallwood
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports — Chris Gardner-USA TODAY Sports

The Georgia Southern Eagles and the Appalachian State Mountaineers have decided they are finally too big for the likes of the College Football world that is the FCS as both are reported they will be joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2015.

Both schools will play a full schedule of all other sports in 2014 with football waiting an additional year before joining in full conference play. The official announcement is scheduled for later this week.

This is a huge step for a pair of the grand-daddies of the old Division I-AA and current FCS College Football programs. When anyone mentioned that level of football, the Eagles and the Mountaineers were always two names that popped up first. Georgia Southern has six National Championships and a pair of runner-ups, while Appalachian State has three National Titles and 18 Conference Championships. Both schools will be leaving the Southern Conference to join the Sun Belt when the announcement is made official. The Southern Conference was formed in 1921 and is the father of both the SEC and the ACC. State joined the SoCon in 1971 and Southern did in 1991.

So with all that history on the table, what are the true reasons for leaving it all behind?

It’s a simple game of economics and TV revenues in short. Even a conference like the Sun Belt is able to generate more dollars than the FCS ever could. Both schools have been preparing for this move for quite sometime financially as App State already has $70 million in endowment funding while Southern began a push last year to get it ready but only has around $40 million. That is a great start for both schools and if they can continue to win on the next level, this amount of money could easily double in the next few years.

But in the end, is it the right move? To be honest it is probably the only move either one could make as the power conferences continue to add teams leaving the second tier conferences with only the FCS schools or new programs to chose from.

And the Sun Belt could not have asked for two better teams. With their fan bases, history, winning pride and zero fear when it comes to playing the big boys, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State should make a quick transition to the new Plus One format in 2015.


M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.

Follow him @woodysmalls.

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