The NCAA Championships Committee will have heard a recommendation by the NCAA Division II football committee by the end of the day today on whether the Division II National Championship football game will return to Florence, Ala., or move elsewhere.

The NCAA Championships Committee will have heard a recommendation by the NCAA Division II football committee by the end of the day today on whether the Division II National Championship football game will return to Florence, Ala., or move elsewhere.
One of those ‘elsewheres’ has been confirmed as Pittsburg State University.
According to Bill Kroenke, PSU assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions, the university submitted a bid in the fall in conjunction with the city of Pittsburg and the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
But a recent conference call between the NCAA and the Shoals National Championship Committee started to raise questions as to whether it was a slam dunk for the game to return to northern Alabama.
“One day I felt really good about our bid and the history of the game for the past 23 years,” said Mickey Haddock, who handles the game day operations for the Shoals committee. “The next day, I got to thinking that if you are looking for a new venue, it appears that Pittsburg State really fits their mold for that.”
Haddock is part of the committee that was formed in 1986 to help plan out the festivities of the game when it was moved from McAllen, Texas. The 2009 season will mark the 24th straight time the game has been held at the Shoals, but Haddock said that the contract expires after that game.
The primary question for both Florence and Pittsburg was regarding the facilities.
Kroenke said that the NCAA raised questions about making Carnie Smith Stadium a “neutral” site for the game.
“There has been some follow-up that the NCAA has conducted since the fall,” Kroenke said. “They asked about our field. Of course they want a neutral field to play on and they wanted us to elaborate on our bid which was relatively straightforward.”
That means removing the Gorilla logo at the 50-yard line and the “Pitt State” and “Gorillas” wording in each of the end zones.
“It is very, very complicated on the options,” Kroenke said. “We have already painted our field, but we presented the NCAA with three choices and there might be another one that might come up or it might become a non-issue.”
According to Pitt State officials at the time, when the university made a bid in 2004, an issue with the NCAA was hotel and convention space in Pittsburg. Craig Hull with the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that by adding a new hotel on the north end of Pittsburg has addressed that issue —by adding hotel rooms and meeting space.
While that was a primary concern for Pittsburg, the NCAA had several questions about Braly Stadium on the campus of North Alabama such as adding artificial turf, enhanced stadium lighting, installing a large video board, improved dressing rooms and decorative fencing around the stadium —all of which Pitt State already has.
“In the past, we have discussed all options each year when we go through a review,” Haddock said. “It has been discussed, in the past, as far the artificial turf. We were, for a long time, very satisfied with our grass, but we got to the point where we had to rework this.”
In years past, Haddock said that the Shoals committee has rented a video board for the game and that the committee has sought to make the necessary improvements asked for during the NCAA conference call.
“We’ve been striving, and not just because of one game, to make those improvements,” Haddock said. “We definitely want to make all of the updates, but in these economic times, it is hard to raise that kind of money.”
He said that the cost of the improvements has been estimated at around $2.2 million.
“I understand that the facilities make a tremendous difference,” Haddock said. “I understand the bid process, and we have had a great relationship with the NCAA and we hope to continue that relationship.”
But even with the tradition of the game being hosted in Florence, Kroenke said that he felt solid about the bid proposal set forth by Pitt State.
“My opinion is that Pittsburg, and I am not saying that it is or is not better than Florence, but it is conducive to hosting the National Championship,” Kroenke said. “We have a stadium that people can easily surround and make an event out of it.
“We feel like Pittsburg is a football community, and our stadium is constructed to be gracious hosts. I am not saying that we can do better than Florence because they have also been gracious hosts to us.”
According to Kroenke, they should know who will host the 2010 game by Sept. 1.
“I think we have a great town to host,” Kroenke said. “We have hotels that are close by and it will be a festive place, and I think we can do that.
“If it is not the best [facility] in Division II, show me who has a better one.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140. Follow Morning Sun sports at twitter.com/mssports