Frisco, Texas, to host FCS title games

2010-02-27T00:11:00Z Frisco, Texas, to host FCS title gamesBy FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian missoulian.com
February 27, 2010 12:11 am  • 

The NCAA decided on the site for the next three Division I Football Championship games, and it is Frisco, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

The decision ends a 13-year run for Chattanooga, Tenn., as the host city for the game. Montana played five times in Chattanooga, winning the title in 2001 and losing in 2000, 2004 and the past two Decembers.

Next season's championship will actually be in 2011: Jan. 7, now that the tournament field has been expanded to 20 teams.

"This is a great day for the city of Frisco, Texas," said Tom Burnett, commissioner of the Southland Conference, which is headquartered in Frisco. "The strong community, football fan base and dedication to putting on an event that will excite the participants in the championship game is something we are confident we can do."

The FCS title game will be played in Pizza Hut Park, a multi-purpose stadium that holds 23,500 and is the home stadium for FC Dallas of Major League Soccer. Pizza Hut Park is 30 miles - a 40-minute drive - from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Missoula was one of several cities to bid for the game, but was eliminated early in the process. The finalists were Chattanooga and Frisco. Scott Smith, president of the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee, was predictably not pleased.

"It's hard to believe that the NCAA would walk away from 13 years of a solid game experience to start over, regardless of the site," Smith told the Chattanoogan newspaper. "Having been involved in running this event since its beginning, I am sick over this decision."

Montana athletic director Jim O'Day is on the FCS playoff committee - he has been elected chairman for the next two seasons - and took a trip with four other committee members to Frisco the first week in January, then helped make the selection this week.

The final choice wasn't a matter of anything Chattanooga did wrong, O'Day said.

"Being from the west, and representing both the west and ourselves - Chattanooga has done a great job over the years, but we felt our fans were ready for something a little bit closer," O'Day said Friday. "And I think we were ready for something a little different, to be honest.

"That's nothing to say against the way we were treated by the people of Chattanooga. We were treated great down there."

Chattanooga's only real black mark was the 2004 final, in which a freshly-sodded field came apart during Montana's 31-21 loss to James Madison. Artificial turf was installed shortly after, and the game stayed there another five years.

"The decision was nothing against them," said O'Day. "It really wasn't. They had done a wonderful job."

O'Day was at the selection committee meeting in Indianapolis on Thursday, in which representatives from both cities gave presentations. The decision was made after about an hour of debate, he said.

Attendance came up. Chattanooga's 20,688-seat Finley Stadium drew 23,000 for the 2007 title game between Appalachian State and Delaware; but the last two title games, in which Montana lost first to Richmond and then to Villanova, drew 17,823 and 14,328.

"Looking at the numbers in Chattanooga the last couple of years, we felt it was worth taking a gamble at looking at a new area," O'Day said.

The FCS title game will compete with the annual Cotton Bowl, which will be played the same night in Dallas. But the fact that Frisco is a burgeoning corporate community (JCPenney, Dr. Pepper, Pizza Hut) that has recently built four high schools and has a population center of 108,000 - compared to 6,000 - was another plus.

Frisco started an online drive to show support for the game, and received pledges for 8,000 tickets from within and around Texas.

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 523-5247 or at fneighbor@missoulian.com.

 

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