If 10,000 area residents attend next Friday night's Football Championship Subdivision title game at Finley Stadium, the event has a much better chance of returning.
That's the opinion of Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee president Scott Smith, who said 7,241 tickets had been sold locally as of Wednesday afternoon. Chattanooga has hosted the FCS title game since 1997 but will vie with the Dallas suburb of Frisco for the 2010-12 matchups.
Each location will present its case to the NCAA football championship committee in late February.
"If we don't sell close to 10,000 tickets locally, then the perception is Chattanooga has hosted this game for 13 years and really doesn't care about it too much," Smith said. "We've been up around 9,000 the past few years, and we obviously don't want to drop off on our last year. I think it's paramount to be close to 10,000 or right at 10,000, regardless of what happens with the teams.
"The committee understands that we can't control the teams."
William & Mary plays at Villanova in the first semifinal Friday night, with Appalachian State traveling to Montana in Saturday afternoon's semi. Smith said App State is asking for 7,500 tickets to next week's game, with William & Mary requesting 3,500, Montana 3,000 and Villanova only 1,000.
Should App State and William & Mary advance and 10,000 area residents attend, the title-game audience would surpass 20,000 for a fourth time in five years. If Montana and Villanova win and fewer than 8,000 show locally, it would result in the smallest title crowd since the late 1980s.
"Montana has never sold 3,000, and unless local sales pick up, all of a sudden it could be pretty rough," Smith said. "Which is terrible in a contract year."