At this point, any realignment scenario being bandied about for any league seems plausible. None of the rumors and conjecture have the paper trail discovered by AppStateNation, however.
The blog, dedicated to coverage of the Appalachian State Mountaineers, used an official Freedom of Information Act request to uncover potential realignment plans that involve the Sun Belt Conference, Georgia State University and, of course, Appalachian State University. Georgia State responded to the FOIA request promptly, sending piles of emails and other information that was, frankly, not that interesting.
There was one piece of correspondence, however, that sparked a great deal of interest. A map showing current Sun Belt schools alongside two schools that aren’t members. Yet. Blog editor John Miller’s reaction:
The map shows the locations of every Sun Belt school…except that Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are added!
Is this a working plan for how the conference will look very soon? Is this just a mockup that they are using to throw around ideas? I honestly have no idea. But they went through great lengths to ensure everyone who read the email knew it was “confidential”. I guess they forgot about us pesky sports bloggers and our annoying FOIA requests.
The usual realignment reasoning doesn’t seem to apply to this potential move. Both Georgia Southern and Appalachian State have been highly successful in FCS football, but haven’t – to date – made any open attempts to move up to the FBS level, which would be required for full membership in the Sun Belt. So this may be a sign of news to come in the DI football world.
In terms of media markets, Statesboro, GA and Boone, NC add almost nothing to the league’s profile. In terms of travel expenses, Appy State adds a rather distant outpost – most distant from another new member, Texas State – that current members would have to include in the travel schedule if the change is made.
And, the thing we’re most interested in: basketball. Both potential movers are members of the Southern Conference right now. Georgia Southern last went to the NCAA tournament in 1992. Appy State last nabbed the SoCon auto-bid in 2000. It seems safe to assume that hoops are along for the ride on this one, should it come to fruition.
The big-picture impact of this possible move has to be concern for the future of the SoCon. College of Charleston is headed to the CAA, and Davidson is a potential choice to fill out the basketball-only league that may be built around the Catholic Seven. If two more members head to the Sun Belt, the SoCon – a fixture in southern collegiate athletics since 1921 – will need to raid an even smaller conference to survive. The domino effect could lead to annexations in the Big South or A-Sun.
And the realignment wheel keeps turning.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.