Montana's 24-17 win Saturday over visiting Appalachian State in a second-half snowstorm provided a riveting finish, but it cost the city of Chattanooga more than $1 million.
The Football Championship Subdivision finalists are set for Friday night with Montana and Villanova, a combination that will travel the fewest fans since the title game came to Finley Stadium in 1997. The two participants will bring an estimated 3,500 fans according to Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee president Scott Smith, which is significantly less than the 5,242 who traveled to the Delaware-Colgate finale in 2003.
Had App State and William & Mary won this weekend's semifinal matchups, at least 11,000 visitors would be expected.
"We've said for years that we can never control the teams," Smith said Saturday night, "which is why we need to get to a certain level locally."
Smith expects this year's FCS championship to have an economic impact from $650,000 to $1 million, with the high end occurring if Montana fans stay three nights instead of two. The previous low according to Smith was $1.148 million in '03.
An App State victory would have guaranteed a minimum of 7,500 Mountaineers fans and an economic impact of at least $2 million. When the Mountaineers defeated Delaware for the '07 title, it occurred in front of a Finley-record 23,010 fans and resulted in a record $2.65 million.
Roughly 10,700 tickets overall have been sold for Friday's game. The record low of 12,360 was set in '02 when Western Kentucky defeated McNeese State.