BOONE — It’s not so easy to get a football program such as Wake Forest to visit a group of five program’s stadium.
Yet, Wake Forest is the second power five conference program to visit Kidd Brewer Stadium. The Demon Deacons, which played Appalachian State in Boone on Sept. 23, followed in Miami’s (Fla.) footsteps. The Hurricanes cruised to a 45-10 win over App State at Kidd Brewer in 2016.
But Miami had to fly to North Carolina. Wake Forest is just over an hour’s bus ride away in Winston-Salem.
It’s a rivalry that existed from the 1970s until 2001 when it was discontinued. For Appalachian State Athletic Director Doug Gillin, it’s a game that makes perfect sense to schedule for both teams. The biggest three reasons why Gillin feels this is a game that is perfect for both teams to play?
Location, location, location.
“You just got to get on a bus and drive, and it’s good for the fans,” Gillin said. “Our fan base is going to travel like crazy to Wake Forest just like their fan base is coming here. Same with North Carolina (and) same with East Carolina. That’s good for everybody.”
Appalachian State’s games with Wake Forest have been fairly close throughout the years with Wake Forest beating the Mountaineers by 17 in 1993 as the largest margin of victory by either team. Wake Forest holds a 14-7-1 lead in the series, but App State took two straight in 1998 and 2000, the final being a 2016 win.
Wake Forest won the final game of the series 20-10 in 2001.
But the game is more than about the rivalry. It’s about Appalachian State’s efforts trying to get a potential rival, or a power five conference team, to make the trip to Boone. Wake Forest qualifies as both.
There are other teams Appalachian State has scheduled home games with, such as North Carolina, East Carolina and former Southern Conference rival Marshall, who could qualify as potential rivals.
Only North Carolina is a power conference team, but East Carolina and Marshall used to be what is known as “money games” to Appalachian State when the Mountaineers were in the FCS/Division I-AA ranks.
East Carolina and Marshall were in the FBS ranks when the teams last played the Mountaineers.
Gillin said the travel savings — no air travel is needed to reach those, or other North Carolina programs — plus energizing fan bases and ticket sales are big reasons why trading games is good for App State and its opponents.
“There are a lot of schools in the state that we don’t have to fly to play, and they can come to us,” Gillin said. “That’s kind of our pitch — that your fans can come here, and we will travel to sell tickets.”
It’s not so easy to bring a power five opponent to Boone. Gillin said he has to initiate the call to other programs, and not all of them are so friendly to the idea of coming to Boone.
If those programs won’t consider coming up to the mountain, then the App State athletic department has to decide if it’s worth the effort and expense to travel to that school, if that program is interested.
Those games, which Gillin calls “buy games,” are more profitable to the Mountaineers than hosting an ACC team. Appalachian State got $1.2 million to play at Georgia on Sept. 3 and $1.25 million to play at Tennessee in 2016.
Appalachian State also plays at Penn State in 2018.
There are other considerations when it comes to scheduling a power conference team.
“It’s a balancing act,” Gillin said. “Is it just financial? Do you want to go somewhere and get paid a lot of money to go? What’s the opportunity? What’s the travel and are they missing class time? Will (the opponent) come back? Is there a good peer like Marshall? That’s a great matchup for us. Marshall will bring fans, we’ll bring fans.”
The other complication is the advanced scheduling that has already been done. Appalachian State’s 2018 nonconference schedule is full with road games slated for Penn State and Charlotte and home games with Southern Miss and Gardner-Webb.
The Mountaineers play at North Carolina in 2019 and host East Tennessee State and Charlotte, but has one date open. App State plays at Wake Forest and hosts Massachusetts in 2020.
UMass, which Appalachian State beat 28-17 in the 2006 FCS national championship game, hosts the Mountaineers this season on Oct. 28.
App State’s dancing card is full in 2021 with home games against Marshall and Elon, a road game at Miami and its first game against East Carolina in Charlotte. East Carolina and App State signed a deal that will have the teams play in Greenville in 2024, in Boone in 2025 and again in Greenville in 2026.
App State hosts North Carolina and Akron, while playing at Marshall in 2022, and playing again at North Carolina and at Wyoming in 2023. App State also hosts ETSU in 2024.
The Demon Deacons have scheduled four nonconference games for every season until 2023 when they have just Vanderbilt and Notre Dame on their nonconference schedule. Wake Forest’s 2024 schedule has Ole Miss and Army and the Deacons play Liberty, Ole Miss and Army in 2025.
In an unusual move, because the ACC has so many teams in it, Wake Forest is playing North Carolina in nonconference games in 2019 and 2021.
“I would love to look at dates down the line that would work for both of our schools again,” Gillin said. “The trick is how far do you have to go out, but I think we’ll see. This is a great matchup and it’s great for college football and it’s great for this part of the state. Wake’s going to see that when we go down there. It’s going to be electric when we go down there in ’20.”