By Jim O'Day
College Sports Journal
Editor's Note: This column originally appeared on the Make It Missoula website. Here is the original link: http://www.makeitmissoula.com/2013/01/wish-we-were-headed-for-frisco-texas/
MISSOULA, MT. — On Saturday, the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game will be played in Frisco, TX. (1 p.m. EST on ESPN2).
For the second consecutive year, the battle features talented teams from North Dakota State University and Sam Houston State University.
Last year, the Montana Grizzlies fell one game short of advancing to the title game. Instead, SHSU took the trip across Texas to play in the championship thanks to its three-point victory over the University of Montana, 31-28.
A couple of weeks later, NDSU claimed its first FCS crown with a 17-6 triumph over the Bearkats.
The last appearance by the Montana Grizzlies in a title game was 2009 when they lost 23-21 to Villanova.
One year earlier, UM fell 24-7 to Richmond in the FCS championship contest.
Both those games — as well as Montana appearances in 2000, 2001 and 2004, were played in Chattanooga, TN.
After a 13-year run in Chattanooga, the FCS Playoff Selection Committee and the NCAA opted to move the game to Frisco starting in 2010.
In the first game there, Big Sky Conference foe Eastern Washington captured its only national championship with a 20-19 come-from-behind victory over Delaware.
Frisco is a sharp contrast to Chattanooga.
It is an energetic, prosperous city on the up-swing, with plenty of new and entertaining places for fans and visitors to check out.
It is located 25 minutes from downtown Dallas, and 20 minutes from both the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Love Field.
If I have one wish, it is that Montana football fans someday get an opportunity to watch their team again in the national championship spotlight in this northern-Texas community.
I know we thoroughly enjoyed our five visits to Chattanooga, and two others to Huntington, W.V. (1995 and 1996), so let’s hope a trip to Frisco is in the cards in the future.
Saturday marks the third time the title game has been played in Frisco, and the NCAA recently announced it has signed on for three more years.
According to Wikipedia, “Frisco is an affluent city in Collin and Denton counties in Texas and a rapidly growing suburb of Dallas. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 116,989, up from 33,714 in the previous census, making it the 26th most populous city in the state of Texas. Frisco was the fastest-growing city in the United States in 2009, and also the fastest-growing city in the nation from 2000 to 2009. In the late 1990s, the northern Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex suburban development tide hit the northern border of Plano and spilled into Frisco, sparking explosive growth into the 2000s. Like many of the cities located in the booming northern suburbs of Dallas, Frisco serves as a bedroom community for many professionals who work in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex.”
In addition to FC Dallas Stadium, site of Saturday’s championship game, as well as home to the FC Dallas professional soccer team, Frisco also has Dr. Pepper Arena (a wonderful facility that doubles as the practice venue for the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League).
The Southland Conference has its operational headquarters in Frisco, as does the Hunts Sports Group.
Other major companies have their national corporate headquarters in nearby Plano, including J.C. Penney, Frito-Lay, Pizza Hut, Dell Services and Dr. Pepper-Snapple Group.
Learfield Sports, which handles corporate signage and promotion for the Montana Grizzlies, is also based there.
During our early site visit when the FCS Committee that I chaired was considering Frisco as an option for the championship games, I fell in love with the community and its welcoming people.
It was a city growing rapidly of young professionals and their families.
Everything we saw appeared to be new.
Perhaps most striking was the way the city fathers worked so closely together to attract major events to the community.
During our site visits and ensuing talks, we stayed in close contract with the leaders of city government, county government, the school district and the organizing committee, “Team Frisco.”
It was a very impressive presentation they made to us three years ago, and one that still lingers in my mind today as a model for others to follow.
More communities could learn by working closely together to reach their ultimate goals. This organizational committee was impressive, and remains so today.
After working so close with them the past three years, I know they will make the FCS proud on Saturday.
They know how to make the championship game experience something to remember for the teams and their followers.
I only wish our Montana fans had a chance to experience it.
Jim O’Day was Director of Athletics at the University of Montana from 2005-2012. Prior to that, he served as the Assistant Director of the Grizzly Athletic Association and later as the Director of Development for Intercollegiate Athletics at UM.
Prior to returning to his alma mater in 1998, O’Day was the owner and publisher of the family-owned Western Breeze newspaper in Cut Bank, Montana.
Jim currently works for The Farran Group, a real estate development/ investment firm based in Missoula, MT. In addition, Jim serves as a consultant for Epio Solutions out of Seattle, a sports based agency primarily focused on monitoring social media platforms for various colleges and universities.