Last week the NCAA announced that beginning in 2014 and running through 2017, the NCAA DII Championship Football Game will be held in Sporting Park, in Kansas City. The game has been held for the previous 26 years in Florence, Alabama. They have done a great job of hosting the event, and the phrases “Getting to Braly Stadium” or “Making the trip to Florence Alabama” have become motivation for many DII schools. So it is tinged with a hint of nostalgic regret that the contest is being relocated… but only a hint!
Here are the reasons that I think this will be a great move for the contest and NCAA DII football.
It is in my back yard!
Although actually in Kansas City, Kansas, the venue for this event, Sporting Park, is less than 15 minutes from my home in Kansas City, MO.
The location is closer to participating schools and conferences
Kansas City sits geographically in the middle of two NCAA DII conferences – the always-strong MIAA, (Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association) and the newly formed GLVC (Great Lakes Valley Conference). It also is in striking distance of two other power NCAA DII Conferences, the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), and the NSIC (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference).
In the last 16 years, the MIAA, GLIAC or NSIC has had a representative (or two) in the title game all but 4 years. Out of the 34 participants in the championship contest over the past 17 years, 2/3 of the schools are closer (23 out of 34) to Kansas City than Florence, Alabama.
NCAA DII schools have a great following in this area. The annual Fall Classic held at Arrowhead Stadium, which pits Northwest Missouri State University against Pittsburg State University (KS), typically draws more than 20,000 fans and drew a record 26,695 fans in 2004.
Sporting Park is a great venue.
Sporting Park, home of the MLS Champions, Sporting KC, is a state-of-the-art facility that was completed in 2011. The venue will seat nearly 20,000 for the contest, and includes 2 video boards, a club level, 3 TV and 4 radio commentary booths, and is fully lighted for HDTV. The stadium is adjacent to the Kansas Speedway and is located 15 minutes from downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
This can be a showcase for DII football and athletics.
People will come to, fans will support, and media will cover this contest. The population of the KC metro area is 2.34 million people. While Florence Alabama is nice city and did a great job of hosting the championship game the last 26 years, its population is less than 40,000. Florence is not a destination… the attendance at the game hovers around 6,000 and seldom gets above 8,000 in attendance. I think playing in Kansas City will give many more people an opportunity to see the outstanding football that is being played at the NCAA DII level. (see recruiting post – Expanding Your Pool)
On a side note –
Regarding the nostalgia, excitement and hospitality of playing in Florence Alabama, I can speak from experience after coaching for 14 years at the NCAA II level. While not making the trip to Florence for the Championship Game, when I was at the University of Central Missouri, we did journey to Braly Stadium to play North Alabama in 1992. We ended up losing that game 17-16 when we blocked a field goal attempt by North Alabama that did not cross the LOS…. they picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown to win the game. North Alabama went on to the NCAA quarterfinals that year and were DII National Champions the following three seasons, 1993,1994 and 1995.
Jeff Floyd – firstname.lastname@example.org