Updates at 5:24 p.m. to reflect the official announcement from Appalachian State and the Charlotte Sports Foundation:
A football game that has been scheduled for almost three years between two in-state schools has been bumped back a couple of days to clear the way for a juicier matchup.
Appalachian State announced this afternoon that its 2021 game at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium against East Carolina, the first of a four-game series between the two schools, would move from Saturday, Sept. 4, to Thursday, Sept. 2. The change follows a Tuesday report that the game would be moved in favor of a matchup between Clemson and Georgia.
The shift for App State and ECU changes the date of a game that was announced in 2017. At this point, it's unclear how the contract between App State and the Charlotte Sports Foundation might have changed to facilitate this move. App State and the foundation declined to comment at the time the deal was first reported on Twitter, but both issued press releases today.
The meeting of Clemson, a national champion in 2016 and 2018, and Georgia, one of the best SEC programs, promises many booked hotel rooms and a significant influx of out-of-state money to watch two perennial top-10 teams. That promises to bring more to the Charlotte economy than App State and East Carolina, whose fans might have used a Saturday game for a day trip.
“We are thrilled to bring these two outstanding games to Charlotte,” said Danny Morrison, the foundation's executive director, in a release. “College football is part of the fabric of the community here in Charlotte, and we cannot think of a better start to the 2021 season than this significant weekend.
"App State, East Carolina, Clemson and Georgia all have incredibly dedicated fan bases, and Charlotte has proven to be a tremendous host and destination. The games will once again showcase the city of Charlotte to the nation, while meaningfully impacting the community for the entire weekend.”
Stadium reporter Brett McMurphy broke the news Tuesday that Charlotte would be the host of a Clemson-Georgia matchup. The pairing of the perennial top-10 programs, McMurphy said, would force the App State-ECU game to move two days earlier. Clemson confirmed McMurphy’s report later in the day with a news release, saying the game with Georgia would “be part of a 2021 rivalry series being hosted by the Charlotte Sports Foundation, including a neutral-site contest between Appalachian State and East Carolina.”
Georgia's release, which also came out Tuesday evening, confirmed the App State-ECU game would take place "two days earlier on Thursday, Sept. 2."
The evolution of the Clemson-Georgia matchup caused a bit of a dilemma for the two Group of Five schools. The Charlotte matchup is technically an App State home game. Though a move away from Saturday isn't ideal for App State and ECU fans, the presence of a large alumni base in Charlotte was too important for Appalachian to balk on.
“Hosting an in-state opponent in Charlotte at an NFL stadium remains a tremendous opportunity for our student-athletes, alumni and fans,” App State athletics director Doug Gillin said in a school-issued release. “Charlotte contains our biggest alumni base and is a prime location for prospective Mountaineer student-athletes and fans. It will be a proud moment when App State and ECU kick off the 2021 college football season.”
App State is coming off its best FBS season, finishing No. 19 in the Associated Press poll after going 13-1. East Carolina went 4-8 in 2019 under first-year coach Mike Houston.
App State will also face ECU in Greenville in September 2024, play host to the Pirates in Boone in September 2025 and return to Greenville in September 2026.