BOONE — When the Sun Belt Football Championship game comes to Kidd Brewer Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 1, Appalachian State will be the home team, but they won’t be hosting the game.
“The thing about it is that it’s a neutral-site game,” ASU Athletics Director Doug Gillin said on Monday. “It’s really a Sun Belt-led event, so it’ll be completely neutral ... You kind of turn the stadium over to the Sun Belt Conference.”
For the Appalachian State versus Louisiana game that kicks off at 12 p.m. live on ESPN, Sun Belt Deputy Commissioner Kathy Keene said the conference aims to have as equitable an atmosphere as possible.
“We have some policies in place that we approved at the start of the process,” Keene said. “This is definitely a game hosted by the conference office; however, Appalachian State University is the home team in every sense of the word.”
Some of those policies will alter the experience. One noticeable change: the field-level black and gold signage on both sides that says “Welcome to the Rock,” “Appalachian State University” and “Home of the Mountaineers” will be covered by Sun Belt logos, the conference’s “Rise Above” branding and Sun Belt Championship markings.
The Sun Belt’s markings will be present throughout Kidd Brewer Stadium, including on the digital ribbon boards.
“We’ll have a lot of consistent markings throughout the lower bowl,” Keene said. “We’ll do both sidelines, the concourse area and team locker rooms.”
With Louisiana not bringing its marching band, ASU’s band will provide the pregame show as normal, but for team entrances, both teams will have an equal fireworks display.
“We will have even team entrances as consistent as possible,” Keene said.
The field itself won’t see any big changes, with the lone exception being Sun Belt Conference Championship game logos at alternating 25-yard lines.
During the game, presentations such as video board messages during the TV timeouts will be by the Sun Belt Conference.
Traditional ASU home game elements — such as the third down “Hell’s Bells,” post-touchdown fireworks and Tweetsie whistle — will not be featured this Saturday, Keene confirmed.
But halftime will be more like a traditional ASU home game, with no conference special events planned, Keene noted.
“We’re allowing App to keep a lot of their normal elements — things they would do on a normal home football game, because they bring so much,” Keene said.
Ticket prices are lower than they were the previous week versus Troy, with reserved seating and non-reserved seating dropping $10 to $35 and $25, respectively.
Keene said the ticket prices were a collaborative effort with the Sun Belt Conference and its member institutions.
All of the ticket revenue will go back to the conference, Keene said, and be distributed to the 10 football-playing institutions.
Parking and concession revenue will be retained by ASU, Gillin said.
“I think going into today we’ve sold about 6,000 tickets,” Gillin said on Monday. “And that doesn’t count our students, and we’re expecting a really good student crowd, so we’ll keep selling.
“We’ve been really busy at the box office, Saturday, Sunday and (Monday),” Gillin added.
One special event will be what Keene called a “College Gameday-type pregame show” that will take place on Duck Pond Field from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Gillin added it would be available on ESPN3.com.
“We’ll have analysts and live guests, feature the ASU band, spirit groups and have video presentations,” Keene said. “We’ll have a number of special guests.”
Keene anticipates representatives from the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl — who will invite the winner of the game as its Sun Belt Conference representative — and other Sun Belt bowl partners, plus App State and Louisiana administrators, athletic directors and Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson.
“We’ll be live on ESPN3.com, then the game will switch over to ESPN (at 12 p.m.),” Gillin said.
To get everything ready, Keene said Sun Belt representatives would start arriving in Boone on Tuesday.
Louisiana would fly to North Carolina on Thursday. Both teams would have press events on Friday at Kidd Brewer Stadium, plus a Commissioners’ Dinner in the Mark E. Ricks Athletics Center Friday night.
Keene said that 18 months of preparation and anticipation have turned into a sprint as the two teams and the host site were determined last Saturday night. Those preparations included plans for multiple potential host sites.
“You had to prepare to go to a couple sites,” Keene said. “When the game ended on (Nov.) 24, we were ready to go with (the App State) template.”
“It’s a lot of work for our staff,” Gillin said. “For a neutral-site game, we’re still doing all the work. The conference staff is coming in to help us ... for the conference, it’s the first (Sun Belt Football Championship) game so there’s a lot of firsts for us.”
Gillin credited his staff with working to make the quick turnaround.
“Teresa Eggers in the ticket office, all of our ticket people, John Welch in operations, are working really hard,” Gillin said.
Despite the work to make it happen, the final result is eagerly anticipated.
“It’s been exciting, but it’s been unknowing,” Keene said. “Now that we know, it’s coming together really quickly and we’re looking forward to it.”
“For Appalachian fans, we need them all there, it’s a huge game live on ESPN, coming right out of (College) Gameday, it’s what (the team has) been working on all year long,” Gillin said.