Appalachian State Winston-Salem State Basketball

Appalachian State fans cheer after a Winston-Salem State player misses two free throws in a row during the 2018-19 football season.

The Appalachian State men's basketball program announced on Thursday that it will revive its playing relationship with East Tennessee State.

On Twitter, the Mountaineers said they will play in Johnson City during the 2019-2020 non-conference schedule. App State will host ETSU the following season in Boone.

"Coach (Steve) Forbes and ETSU have an excellent program with a rich tradition," Coach Dustin Kerns said in a school-issued press release. "It is exciting to renew this series for both our fans and alumni. 

"We are striving to play more regional opponents and playing a great program like ETSU is a great start towards that for our program."

Since he was hired in March, the revival of the App State-ETSU rivalry has been a constant talking point for Kerns. The schools are around 55 miles apart from each other, according to Google Maps, and were longtime opponents in the Southern Conference. Kerns grew up in Kingsport, Tenn., which is roughly 30 minutes from Johnson City. 

Attendance has been an issue for App State in recent years. Last season, the Mountaineers were last in the Sun Belt Conference in home attendance, averaging 1,026 fans during their 14 games in Boone. The Holmes Convocation Center has 8,325 seats.

More games against East Tennessee State could and should help that attendance issue. In App State's history, there have been only six games with an attendance of 7,800 or higher. Three of those six games were against ETSU. The 1990 matchup, which featured a 96-94 loss for Appalachian, set the all-time record attendance of 8,564.

That game was held at Varsity Gym, which is in the center of App State's campus. App State basketball moved to Holmes in 2000.

East Tennessee State and App State last played each other during the 2011-12 season.

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