BOONE - Appalachian State has signed a deal to start a football series with the state's flagship university.
North Carolina is finally coming to the High Country.
App State on Monday announced a three-game series that begins with the Mountaineers visiting Chapel Hill on Sept. 21, 2019. The Tar Heels are scheduled to appear in Boone for a season opener on Sept. 3, 2022, and they will have another home game with Appalachian on Sept. 9, 2023.
"I think it's great for college football, and I think it's great for college football in our state," App State athletics director Doug Gillin said. "Both fan bases get to travel a couple hours to go watch a game that they care about, and we'll travel well - we've proven that wherever we travel within the state and region. Certainly, we know the affinity the Tar Heel fan base has.
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"When you look at the college football playoff, you have to get quality wins, and there's no doubt that Appalachian State is a quality football program. We think that helps across the board."
The two UNC-system schools have met only once in football, with North Carolina claiming a 56-6 home victory in 1940. The Mountaineers have an 0-6 record against N.C. State, which won 23-10 during the most recent meeting in 2006, and they've never faced Duke.
App State plays Wake Forest in Boone later this year as part of a home-and-home agreement, and Gillin finalized a four-game deal last month to bring East Carolina to Boone in 2025. Last season, as part of a home-and-home deal with Miami, the Hurricanes drew a record-breaking crowd of 34,658 when they became the first Power Five program to play in Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Unlike a traditional two-for-one deal, the UNC series resembles a home-and-home deal with an additional "money" game, with App State receiving a payout to appear in Kenan Stadium the second time. After playing a one-time "money" or "guarantee" game at Tennessee last season, the Mountaineers will travel to Georgia this year and Penn State in 2018.
One-time, out-of-state trips like that regularly pay more than $1 million to the visiting school.
"A lot of folks at our level, including us, count on 'guarantee' games to help with our budget," Gillin said. "The philosophical shift, right or wrong, is that we'll give up some (money) on (not playing as many of) those 'guarantee' games, because we would make more money if we just played one 'guarantee' game every year rather than trying to get folks to come up here and play at 'The Rock.'
"We don't have a lot of seats, so we're not maximizing the same amount of revenue, but there's a trade off in terms of relevancy. By getting people to come up here and play us at our place and what it does for our community, you really can't put a dollar figure on that."
Gillin traveled across the state and met with other athletics directors shortly after becoming App State's athletics director in 2015. He said he asked North Carolina's Bubba Cunningham if he'd be willing to discuss the possibility of a UNC-App State series.
Cunningham was open to having that conversation, and Gillin worked through the logistics with UNC senior associate athletics director Rick Steinbacher, a former Tar Heels linebacker.
Appalachian State's successful move from a championship-winning FCS program to a member of the FBS-affiliated Sun Belt Conference has made the Mountaineers a more attractive option for Power Five schools. App State has won back-to-back Camellia Bowls and one Sun Belt title while going 27-5 in its last 32 games.
The first schedule openings for both schools fell in 2019, with App State adding the UNC trip to home nonconference games against East Tennessee State and Charlotte. The Tar Heels are currently scheduled to play South Carolina in Charlotte and visit Wake Forest for a nonconference game that season - there are 14 ACC schools but only eight league games a year.
Three seasons from now, App State players such as Clifton Duck and Victor Johnson could possibly be fourth-year starters taking the field in Chapel Hill.
“This new football series with a fellow school from the University of North Carolina system is great for Carolina – and for our state," Cunningham said in a school-issued release. "The dates in 2019, 2022 and 2023 worked well for our future scheduling needs."
In addition to hosting UNC in 2022, App State currently has agreements to play Akron at home and Marshall on the road that year.
Boone is part of an area once known as the "Lost Province" because of its geographic isolation from the rest of the state, and UNC's two highest-profile sports programs have made a combined two trips to App State. The Tar Heels' basketball team played there in 1940 and also appeared for the November 2000 opening of the Holmes Center.
"I think when we were looking at the transition to FBS, this is something we envisioned, bringing those kinds of schools to Boone, North Carolina, and playing us here," App State football coach Scott Satterfield said. "We have a rich tradition, and I think this helps our school get our name out a little bit more. It's awesome for our alumni and our students to be able to come to a game of that magnitude."
Read more online at journalnow.com/sports/asu/app_trail/
Series Dates: Appalachian State-North Carolina Football
Game 1 - Sept. 21, 2019 in Chapel Hill
Game 2 - Sept. 3, 2022 in Boone
Game 3 - Sept. 9, 2023 in Chapel Hill