Boone, NC – It felt like "wedding day" to Charlie Cobb.
That's how the Appalachian State athletic director described his Southern Conference power's football game against Montana this past Saturday. The day culminated a buildup that was years in the making as perhaps the two most prominent programs in the Football Championship Subdivision met in the regular season for the first time.
The game was everything people expected it to be before host Appalachian State won, 35-27.
While Montana-App State clearly was the epicenter of the FCS that day, the truth is, Cobb finds himself there on many a occasion.
So much in the FCS falls in place behind Appalachian State, and Montana, for that matter.
Montana, for one, already flirted with moving from the FCS to the Bowl Subdivision. When the Grizzlies athletics program resisted the move, it helped solidify the Big Sky Conference's future and calmed the realignment waters.
Now App State is bracing for such a move, with Conference USA and the Sun Belt, considered the strongest possible destinations.
The Mountaineers program seems to be the best fit for any FCS school trying to move up. It annually posts the best attendance figures (30,856 fans were on hand for the Montana game) and sends players off to NFL careers.
Since Cobb became Appalachian State's AD in 2005, the athletic budget has nearly doubled to $14.5 million and the football program has won three national championships.
Cobb is not only overseeing the possible move to the FBS, but he is influential in one of the greatest parts of the FCS level - the playoff system. It expanded from 16 to 20 teams in 2010 and will move to 24 teams next year. Cobb serves as the chair of the NCAA committee that will select the playoff field in November.
In Five-a-Side - In the FCS Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Cobb discusses Appalachian State's outstanding program and the future of FCS.
Let's kick off:
TSN: What should FCS schools take away from the Montana-Appalachian State series taking place?
CC: I think it shows that it highlights what is FCS, and it's been fun to have a game of this magnitude. Certainly the playoffs at the end of the year typically is when intersectional teams, especially the upper echelon programs, will play. It's been a pretty good thing. A lot of credit goes to (former Montana AD) Jim O'Day to have the courage and the vision, I think, to try this. We certainly hope we can build from it. As the playoffs expand, I think you're going to have more of these. I would like to think we would.
At the end of the day, you've got two different scheduling philosophies of those teams that are trying to be one of those top four, eight teams. In the playoffs, you get a seed, and this will help expand that threshold. With the four extra slots, I think teams are willing to go play a marquee game to get their fan base excited and get the exposure that comes with it, but also realize the fact that it's better to play strong-caliber games than it is just to play games.
TSN: Well, with the playoffs in mind, is the NCAA selection committee's recommendation of seven Division I wins affecting many, many teams?
CC: Absolutely. You get two choices. You can either schedule to get in the playoffs or you're trying to schedule quality teams.
You look at it and you try to manipulate the schedule based on what you have and what you think you're going to have. You can't be certain.
Again, I think it gets back to, at the end of the day, if you're really nervous about being one of those bubble teams, I think it speaks more volumes, it's a plus, to have played some games and have a strong schedule than it is just to sneak by.
TSN: If that's a point of emphasis with the committee, what are some of the other points of emphasis?
CC: We really haven't started a conversation for this year. Coming out of last year, the real conversation starter was the brand that is FCS football.
There's a branding group in place and they're trying to define what is FCS football and what isn't. What are we going to do, where are we going to be? The conversation's been going on for 10 years and it probably will for another 10.
And the second thing we've been really focusing on, how are we going to handle the bracket expansion? I think we've gotten that put to bed.
TSN: Is it inevitable that your school will become an FBS member, or is there still a good chance you will remain in the FCS?
CC: We spent a year studying and we had a pretty blue-ribbon panel to help us walk through the conversation.
For us, if we can find an FBS home that meets the specifics that we've talked about here ... we need to be in a league with rivals, the geography needs to meet. And we've put some conditions on it.
I think we've got a pretty solid brand here. But one thing that FCS football does for Appalachian is we start the fall every year with aspirations of winning a national championship. And I think that resonates on campus.
TSN: When Coach (Jerry) Moore (who is 73) retires as your head coach, what will be the hardest of his successor's job?
CC: I think when that day comes, whoever that person is, you're following a legend. I think the greatest avenue for success is when you follow someone who wasn't successful. That won't be case here.
It's a great challenge. But certainly what we're proud of is we like to think we're in a position where we'll continue to clip along at a great pace. Certainly, that's our goal.