By Jason Huber
Special to College Sports Journal
BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State football took a huge step in the schools program this season in receiving their first bid to a bowl game.
In only the second year of App State’s postseason eligibility after moving from the FCS, the Mountaineers went 10-2 with a 7-1 conference to place second in the Sun Belt conference.
A season removed from finishing with a 7-5 overall record in their first FBS season, the Mountaineers were ineligible to make a bowl game because of the first year FBS rule of not making the postseason, despite six win teams being able to make a bowl game.
Rival Georgia Southern who was also in its first year, also did not make a bowl despite a 9-3 overall record.
One year later, we now sit here with three 5-7 teams, Nebraska, San Jose St, and Minnesota, playing in a bowl game.
With 80 slots to fill the 40 bowls, there were not enough six win teams to take those slots, which left the FBS committee to choose which 5-7 teams could make a bowl.
There have only been four teams since 2001 to make a bowl with a losing record.
“This was an unusual year with not enough six win teams.” Appalachian State athletics director Doug Gillin said. “I anticipate lengthy discussion on this issue in the off season and potential modifications.”
With these teams making the playoffs, it has left some wondering whether Georgia Southern and ASU should have made a bowl last season or could have this season.
Gillin said fans should leave last season in the past and just focus on this year’s matchups.
“I really do not have a feel as to how it would have been answered had it happened last season.” Gillin said. “The Bowl system has provided some compelling match ups this year that I believe will be good for the fans.
After the panel discussed of how to choose the 5-7 teams, they decided to go off of progress ratings of the schools grades.
Many people have felt teams who can’t finish with a .500 record should not merit a bowl.
The Appalachian newspaper sports editor Chris Warner said some six-win eligible teams shouldn’t even make it.
“The bowl system has become expansive and water down that you have teams finishing fourth in their conference playing in bowls,” Warner explained. “Why are we rewarding mediocrity?”
After competing through the Bowl Championship series from 1998-2013, this is only the second season there has been a football playoff system.
Four teams chosen by a panel make the playoffs with the next best teams playing in a New Years six bowl game. The rest of the eligible teams are placed in another bowl.
“I don’t like anything about the bowl system.” Warner said. “I’d expand the college playoff format to eight or 16 teams, with each conference winner qualifying to receive an invitation to the playoff with an extremely reduced bowl system would be used to reward teams that may have finish between eight and 11 wins.”
However, last week, the college football playoff committee stated that they would not be expanding the playoffs any time soon.
“I don’t want to say never.” ACC commissioner John Swofford told Yahoo! Sports. “But I don’t think we’ll see it during the remaining years of the contract.”
The contract with ESPN runs through the year 2025.
Part of the argument about expanding the season would be that it would then go further into January, which would cause football to become a two-semester sport, which is highly opposed.
If postseason games took place in December it would interfere with student-athletes final exams and holidays.
Before the playoff system, the FBS was the only college sport that did not compete in a playoff.
The FCS, which App State competed in before their transition, even has a 16-team playoff format that App State won from 2005-2007.
When the Mountaineers made the transition last season too the FCS, many were left questioning why a dominant team in the FCS who competed for national championships on a yearly basis would move too the FBS where they would compete against power five schools and would only make low Raycom Bowls.
After two good seasons and being ranked in some of the top FBS statistics this season, Doug Gillin is optimistic about Appalachian’s future.
“A 10-2 regular season record is a significant accomplishment for our program.” Gillin said. “I believe potential recruits will see our commitment to the sport of football, our history of graduating our student athletes, our commitment to providing a world class experience and our successful tradition as being an attractive place for them to continue their playing careers.”
The Mountaineers had a very good shot to be ranked in and out of the top 25 this season had they beaten conference winner Arkansas State and their only loss coming against number one Clemson.
These types of yearly improvement will have top tier recruits consider ASU more and can possibly lead them to a future playoff game or New Years six bowl game.
“This season more than ever you can see the level of talented depth we have on the roster.” Warner said. “That’s what separates the good FBS teams from the great ones is the ability to replace starters each season without experiencing much of a drop off at the position, and we’re starting to show signs that we’re becoming that team.”
Appalachian football certainly does have a bright future for possible recruits after power-five-school Miami committed to playing in Boone at The Rock next season against the Mountaineers.
“Hosting Miami next season is huge for the program, especially now that a nationally-recognized coach in Mark Richt on the opposing sideline.” Warner said. “This is a huge test for App State.”
Many power five teams are set to play App in the future and the school is hoping it will help put them more on the national map.
“We want to compete at the highest level of College Football. We also want to provide our students, alumni and fans with a strong home schedule.” Gillin said. “This will certainly continue to assist us in marketing our university and athletic program to a national audience.”
Questions remain about whether the college football bowl system will change, but App State is enjoying every moment of their first season qualifying for a bowl game. App State will play Ohio in the Camellia Bowl on Saturday.
Editor’s note: Jason Huber is a Communication major at Appalachian State University and is also a member of the Appalachian student newspaper staff.