For the 12th time, the Football Championship Subdivision national championship will be played Friday at Finley Stadium. And while the game remains in Chattanooga for 2009, beyond that there’s uncertainty.
Staff Photo by Billy Weeks Fans of Applaachiam State rush the field after their team won the FCS against Delaware.
In 2010, playoffs for the Football Championship Subdivision — formerly Division I-AA — will expand from 16 to 20 teams, and the extra round of games will push back the title match.
Local officials, however, say they’re confident the championship will stay in town.
The title for the 2010 season is scheduled for Jan. 5, 2011, the night before the Bowl Championship Series national championship game, which decides college football’s No. 1 team for the season, this year between Florida and Oklahoma.
The Football Championship Subdivision game now is played on the Friday before the third Saturday in December. Once the playoffs expand, the date of the game will “float” between Dec. 29 and the eve of the BCS title game.
Where the game will land depends on several factors, from avoiding certain days of the week to ESPN’s programming schedule, said Damani Leech, the NCAA’s director for baseball and football.
“The date is going to float, but we are hoping to know the exact date of the game not less than 18 months in advance, which should be plenty of time,” Mr. Leech said.
Merrill Eckstein, president of the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee, which coordinates the event, said he is more optimistic about the game’s future in Chattanooga than he was even five years ago.
“Our ability to host the game became truly concrete once we got the artificial turf (in 2005), because that was always a concern of the NCAA,” Mr. Eckstein said. “And the other thing I feel very good about is that, thanks to the mayor’s corporate campaign and the volume of tickets we’ve been able to sell (locally) — and that grows every year — we’re in good shape as far as local-fan interest and importance to the community, which is important to the NCAA.”
Chattanooga has an exclusive bidding window for the 2010 and 2011 games for 30 days after the 2009 game, and Mr. Eckstein said the plan is to keep the game here for at least two years under the new format to see if the support remains at the same level as now.
Mr. Eckstein and NCAA officials also believe the game’s later date will be advantageous because the two-plus weeks between the semifinals and the championship game will give fans of the two participating schools more time to make travel arrangements.
Under the current format, the semifinals were played last Friday and Saturday, giving fans only a few days to book flights or make other arrangements.
In addition, the new championship game will be “past the holidays, and people have so many commitments during the holiday time that it amazes me that as many come to the game as they do,” Mr. Eckstein said.
Mr. Leech said there also isn’t much time now for ESPN, which broadcasts the title game, to do much team-specific promotional work.
“Having that window will be an advantage from a promotional standpoint because we can highlight the teams that are playing,” Mr. Leech said. “When we were weighing the pros and cons of moving the game back, those things were definitely listed in the pros.”
Friday’s game between Richmond and Montana will have a different look from the previous three years because three-time defending champion Appalachian State isn’t playing. Even though the Mountaineers always brought thousands of fans, Mr. Leech said it is going to be nice to see some new faces on the sidelines. Although Montana has been in the championship game six times, this is Richmond’s first trip.
“It’s always great to see the excitement on the faces of the athletes who are here for the first time,” Mr. Leech said.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...