Now that the 2009 NCAA Division I Football Championship game has come and gone, officials in Chattanooga and Frisco, Texas, will soon turn their attention to winning the right to host next year's game and beyond.
Chattanooga, the host for the past 13 years, and Frisco, a Dallas suburb, are the two finalists to host the 2010-12 championships, and they will make presentations to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Committee in Indianapolis in late February. The NCAA is expected to announce the winner in early March.
Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee president Scott Smith said the first planning meeting for Chattanooga's presentation is scheduled for Jan. 6.
"That's when we'll start figuring out exactly what we're going to say, who's going and all those things," Smith said. "I'm sure we'll have two or three planning sessions, aside from working on it ourselves in the office."
Also attending those sessions, Smith said, will be Finley Stadium executive director Merrill Eckstein, Sports Committee board chairman Jim Kennedy, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director Rick Hart and Bob Doak, president of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
While Chattanooga officials are meeting on Jan. 6, NCAA staff and committee members will be participating in the first day of a two-day site survey in Frisco.
Tom Burnett, commissioner of the Frisco-based Southland Conference, was in town last week but did not stick around for the game. He said no Frisco representatives attended the game because they wanted Chattanooga to be able to host it "without any outside interference from us."
"They're not going to get the opportunity to come visit during our site survey with the NCAA staff, so I think we felt it was appropriate that we just kind of let them do their thing," Burnett said.
Burnett said Frisco's bidding group is comprised of the Southland Conference, officials from the city of Frisco and the Hunt Sports Group/Pizza Hut Park.
The paid attendance for Friday's title game, in which Villanova defeated Montana 23-21, was 14,328, the lowest since 2003. Montana and Villanova accounted for 3,667 of those tickets through their box offices, meaning a record 10,651 were sold through the UTC box office or online.
Despite the cold and wet conditions, most of the people that bought tickets attended the game.
"I think that says a lot for Chattanooga and what this game means, and how it's become part of our city," Smith said. "They're not going to get that just anywhere else."
Fresh off his first national championship, Villanova coach Andy Talley said he wants the game to remain in Chattanooga.
"I can't imagine it being anywhere else and really hope that is stays here," he said.
NCAA director of football and baseball Damani Leech said the local turnout was good, but "I think we'd like to get to the point where we're closer to the 12-15,000 range."
Burnett said he was impressed with the crowd based on what he saw on television.
"It appeared as if despite some pretty nasty weather they had some pretty hearty souls come out and watch the game and support it," he said. "It looks there was certainly no lack of interest in trying to keep the game there, and that's admirable. I think in the end it's good for the game and good for all us."