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Speaking of the Southland

A Look at the Chattanooga-Frisco 'Title Fight'

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An article in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press declared that a [url=]"title game fight is heating up"[/url].

The only fight comparable to the one writer Jon Frierson describes is S.D. Jones making his way to the ring to face King Kong Bundy at the original Wrestlemania. For those who do not follow the wonderful world of wrestling, it was a one-sided brawl with Bundy defeating "Special Delivery" Jones in nine seconds.

While we have brushed on [url=]Frisco's efforts previously[/URL], we really have not discussed those being made in Chattanooga.

For those keeping score from ringside - according to the article out of Chattanooga, there is really not much that can be said about the Tennessee contingent in this 'title fight'.

Unless everything is being done behind the scenes, the only thing outside of the presentation that Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee president Scott Smith is working on, is a Facebook group called the "Friends of the FCS National Championship Game in Chattanooga".

Started by Ricky Crook, who owns a planning, coordination and supply company that focuses on special events like the title game, the group contains a membership of just over 1,000 people as of Thursday night at 6 p.m.

What Crook does not understand in creating the group is that the "FCS National Championship" has never been determined in Chattanooga. The combatants on the field were competing for the Division I national championship, the same one displayed prominently in the group and as the profile picture on his personal page.

Though that argument may be petty and just a misunderstanding on the part of Crook, the Chattanooga effort has been relatively quiet.

Let's give Frierson some credit for standing up for the title holder.

He does take a shot at the [url=]Frisco online pledge[/url] effort by saying that "Chattanooga doesn't need to do a pledge initiative since it has actual ticket sales numbers to present to the NCAA. The paid attendance for the 2009 title game between Montana and Villanova was 14,328."

Frierson does note that that this is the lowest turnover since 2003, but it does include a "record 10,651 tickets sold locally through the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga box office or online".

What he fails to note is that for the longevity of the game in Tennessee, the game has not generated consistent crowds. Though is newspaper has done a great job providing coverage for the contest, the attendance has fluctuated from a high of 23,010 when Appalachian State defeated Delaware to consecutive crowds in 2001 and 2002 of less than 12,700.

Simply put, it is clear from looking over the attendance marks, that if a well-traveling fan base from the Southern Conference - like ASU or Georgia Southern - is not present, the game will draw flies.

Having the game in Texas is different.

The arguments against Frisco are pretty obvious by some of the discussion that has taken place amongst those in the FCS community.

Most FCS schools are found east of the Mississippi River with the Southland, the Big Sky and Great West serving as the leagues closest to the current home of the game. The fear is that attendance will suffer, but as can be noted by the current attendance, it takes a fan base that travels well to generate any sort of attendance as is.

The argument against Frisco is that it is difficult to get to the game site. With the date of the game changing, fans will have a longer length of time to purchase airfare.

A quick glance of airlines and destinations for the [url=]Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport[/url] shows limited lines of connection to the city, making late air travel to the game a very expensive proposition. For Frisco, not only does one have the option of flying into Dallas-Fort Worth Aiport (DFW), which is one of the largest airports in the country, but so does the option exist of using Love Field in the Dallas area.

Though we will not need to get into an argument about the number of hotels, attractions and other fan-friendly locales are within distance of Frisco, compared to Chattanooga, the big question does come down to the locals.

Will the locals support the game? This is the toughest case to prove for the SLC and the city of Frisco, hence the ticket pledge drive. The SLC has made a tremendous effort with kudos to all the involved parties, in promoting the ticket pledge drive.

Like their Tennessee competitors, Facebook has been used. The SLC has had a presence on the social network for some time under the auspices of the conference media relations office.

The league has also tapped into their e-mail databases, which includes all those who have viewed games on SLC Now or stepped into the online store on the Southland web site, among other avenues of being involved through the league site. Additionally, league schools have taken a vested interest with most publicizing the Frisco effort through their web site at the very least, if not going beyond that.

As is the case in any vote, it is hard to knock off the incumbent.

Those leading the efforts in Chattanooga need to understand that they have a worthy challenger.

With the strong group around SLC Commissioner Tom Burnett, there is probably much more in the weeks ahead, as we near a decision, that the league will roll out either publicly or behind the scenes.

Going off the information we do know, it does not seem like Chattanooga is as active a participant in this 'fight' as their foes from Frisco. Perhaps our friends in Chattanooga are not showing their cards and putting on their best poker face.

What we do know is that no one can question the efforts being made by the strong coalition surrounding the SLC effort.

Not only has the Pizza Park and Frisco group hosted the 2005 MLS Cup, it most recently hosted the 2008 NCAA College Cup. Along with the SLC, which has had a hand in running NCAA championship events in volleyball, men's basketball and women's basketball - you have a group that has experience in running major events.

From this vantage point, Frisco has just one thing to prove to the NCAA to land this game - putting fans in the stands. Should they prove that they could before March, we'll see everyone next January in Texas!

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