By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
Why did I think Chattanooga was perfect for the game?
The biggest reason I thought Chatty was perfect was that it was nearly the geographical center of the FCS world.
When Chattanooga hosted the game, there were only eight appearances amongst just three West schools (Montana five times, McNeese State twice, and Northern Iowa once) of the total of 26 participants. I will grant that two schools that I cover or have covered in Youngstown State (2) and Western Kentucky (1) made the game as well but both are located east of the Mississippi River.
Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium is also the home of a FCS team so that community has some recognition for the two schools that came to their city.
Chattanooga even took some suggestions in replacing the natural grass field with a new artificial one following that 2004 title game that saw a terrible surface that had been resurfaced before the championship game.
The atmosphere grew to have more than just the game, with a fantastic tailgating atmosphere along with the awards shows.
But Frisco was awarded the game for 2010 and will have the game for this year and next year as well.
After the first year in Frisco, I thought the NCAA may have made a mistake. The game between Eastern Washington and Delaware drew just over 13,000 in the game—an attendance that was the lowest since 2002 when Chattanooga had just over 12,000 for that year’s game between Western Kentucky and McNeese State.
Why have I warmed up to Frisco hosting the game?
A big reason for me warming up to Frisco is that the game sold out early. The game in the 21,193 capacity FC Dallas Stadium (formally Pizza Hut Park) sold out on Dec. 23rd and only a couple of days after the semi-final games were completed.
Also, three of the four finalist thus far coming to Frisco have been teams from west of the Mississippi—showing a possible shift towards the Pacific as the center of the top FCS teams.
I also like that the Dallas area is much easier and less expensive to fly to as Dallas is a major airline hub from just about anywhere in the country. Frisco is a northern suburb of Dallas and is about a 35 minute drive away.
Frisco is also a growing community that, like Chattanooga, has appeared to start to embrace the game. Frisco is also somewhat of a FCS community as the Southland Conference headquarters are located there.
Moving the game to Saturday afternoon is also a positive, one that Chattanooga did not enjoy. Many fans that travel have to work the first week of January so having the game on a Friday night makes it harder to get to the game, especially right after having a holiday for New Year’s Day.
Moving it away from the same time as the FBS Cotton Bowl is also a plus. There may be some fans that might want to go to both events in the Dallas area and now can do that.
Texas is also the arguably the high school football capital on the nation so the causal football fans in the area will be attending as can be attested this year as each of the schools each had just 4,000 tickets allotted so there will be nearly half the crowd being supporters for neither team.
Dallas area weather is also generally better than Chattanooga too so there should be fewer concerns with cold or snowy weather that might also hamper fans from wanting to come to game. Just on the average, Dallas has an average high of 55 degrees in January, while Chattanooga has an average high of 48 degrees. Though to be fair, Chattanooga is forecast to be warmer then Frisco this year on January 7.
There seems to be a lot to do in the Dallas area as well for fans that might want to make this a vacation. This week of the game, I gave the Cotton Bowl as an example on the Friday night before this game. Dallas also has the Dallas Stars NHL hockey team and the Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team. The Stars play on Tuesday night versus the Detroit Red Wings. The Mavericks play on Wednesday night versus the Phoenix Suns and Saturday night after this championship game versus the New Orleans Hornets.
The Dallas area also boasts some great family area events like the Dallas Zoo, the Dallas World Aquarium, and the Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park. Those coming to the Division I title game do have other activity choices.
The Friday night and Saturday have tailgating and pre-game parties for both schools in the Frisco area as well for those that do not want to leave the north metro area.
While I think that that the championship game is the true event to come to Frisco, having these other events nearby is always a plus to make this a vacation in early January much like the FBS bowl team fans have.
So yes, I am warming up to having Frisco as our home for this game. I hope that this year’s game will be a true showcase to the country that the NCAA Division I Football Championship game is something to attend or watch. I know that the Bearkats and Bison will give us a great game and a sellout crowd will display to the country that college football is best when a playoff system decides the champion.