By David Rogers. December 2, 2014. BOONE, NC — A deal is a deal, no matter how badly you might want to change the terms in retrospect. That’s the message implicitly conveyed on Tuesday by Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson and College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock.
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Part of the agreement signed by all parties — the Sun Belt, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, and undoubtedly approved by the NCAA — was that in moving to the Sun Belt, the two schools would go through a two-year transitional period in which post-season play was out of the question. In 2013, both competed in the Southern Conference at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. Even if they won the conference championship, they could not advance to the FCS playoffs. For 2014, the deal was that in their first year in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Sun Belt Conference, they could win a conference championship, but would not be eligible for an FBS-level bowl game.
As it turned out, under normal circumstances both teams would have been bowl-eligible. Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt Conference championship with a stellar, unblemished record in league play (8-0) and, overall, losing only to longtime FBS competitors North Carolina State, Georgia State, and Navy.
For its part, Appalachian State opened the season 1-5 and had a lot of the High Country’s talking heads and fan forums buzzing with criticism for the move to the higher level and even expressing doubts about the future of former App State star player and team captain, but now the dyed-in-Black-and-Gold head coach of the Mountaineers, Scott Satterfield. No one on the outside seems to know the seminal moment for the program’s turnaround. Maybe no one on the inside knows, either. Maybe it “just happened” that things began to click, but the Mountaineers fashioned a storied end-of-season for the history books: a 6-0 win streak through arguably the toughest part of the Sun Belt (except Georgia Southern) to finish with a 6-2 conference record, 7-5 overall. Normally, that would have been “bowl eligible” if not for the transitional year requirement agreed to at the outset.
So naturally, both schools petitioned the Sun Belt and the College Football Playoff organization for the exclusion from post-season consideration be waived. At the end of the regular season, Georgia Southern was conference champion, after all, and Appalachian State was “…the hottest team in college football…”, as Mr. Satterfield noted to reporters after Saturday’s win vs. Idaho.
Certainly App State had no chance of consideration if Georgia Southern’s petition wasn’t upheld. Last week, the initial petition was denied, subject to appeal. This week, the appeal was turned down, too. For both schools’ football programs, it’s time to turn their attention to next year.
Statement from Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson
“Sun Belt Champions Georgia Southern completed a historic season, becoming just the third ever team to win a conference championship in its first year transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision. Despite the Eagles 9-3 record, we knew at the beginning of the season that they would not be eligible for postseason competition because of NCAA rules. A waiver was filed to the NCAA to allow Georgia Southern to play in a bowl game, but it was denied along with the appeal.
“While we congratulate Georgia Southern on its remarkable season – as well as Appalachian State for its 7-5 record in its first season of FBS competition – we must recognize that our primary bowl partners and the College Football Playoff selection committee will not be considering the Eagles for a spot in the postseason.
“The Sun Belt Conference’s bowl partners will now move forward to finalize bowl arrangements with Sun Belt member institutions.”
Statement from College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock
“We understand that the Sun Belt champion is not eligible to participate in a bowl game this season, and so its champion will not be in the pool of teams to be considered by the selection committee.”