The City of Salem learned this afternoon that the NCAA has decided to move the Division III National Football Championship game out of Salem after this year’s contest. Since 1993, this championship game, known as the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, has been played at Salem Stadium each December.
In addition, Men’s Division III Basketball and Women’s Division II Softball also will be played in cities other than Salem after the spring of 2018.
“It has been an incredible run,” says Carey Harveycutter, Salem’s Tourism Director. “For a city our size to host nearly 100 NCAA events of this magnitude is one of the greatest civic success stories ever in the Commonwealth. This is something all of the localities in Virginia’s Blue Ridge region should be very proud of on a number of levels.”
Harveycutter has been the Game Manager or Tournament Director for each of the 83 NCAA National Championship events the city has hosted since December of 1993, on both the Division II and Division III levels. Every time the NCAA rolled into town, the city rolled out the red carpet for athletes, coaches and their families.
“In many ways, we became a victim of our own successes,” say Salem Mayor Randy Foley. “Our attention to detail and willingness to do whatever was necessary to ensure a successful championship made it nearly impossible for the NCAA to leave us for 25 years. Our people always bent over backwards for the NCAA events and the committee members, and we certainly wish them well as they move forward.”
While Salem’s facilities still rank among the best in the region, newer fields and stadiums with more amenities have been built on campuses and in communities across the country since Salem first got into the NCAA business 25 years ago.
“The sports committees had to make some very difficult decisions due to the quality of bids received,” said Joni Comstock, NCAA Senior Vice-President of Championships. “Regarding Division III Championships, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and the City of Salem have certainly set the standard for the experience of everyone involved at NCAA Championships from the student-athletes and coaches to the spectators. In this round of site selections, the committees felt that there were bids from cities with facilities that took the championships to the next level that they just couldn’t overlook.”
The Men’s Final Four Basketball weekend for Division III has been a fixture at the Salem Civic Center since 1996.
It’s final run in Salem will take place next March, just a few months after the arena turns 50-years-old.
“We always tried to treat each championship like it was the first, because for many of these athletes, it truly was their only time on this NCAA stage,” says Harveycutter. “There may be places with bigger and better facilities, but I guarantee you that no one has better people dedicated to making these championships unforgettable moments for the student-athletes.”
In 1991, Harveycutter, retired City Manager, Forest Jones, and retired Economic Development Director, Joe Yates, traveled to Bradenton, Florida to see if they might have a chance of bringing the Stagg Bowl to Salem.
Before 1993, the game bounced back and forth between Phenix City, Alabama, Kings Island, Ohio and Bradenton. Salem gave the game stability and a place to call home for two-and-half decades.
“In the beginning this was the hottest ticket in town and often on the coldest day of the year,” says Harveycutter. “We appreciate the local sports fans who supported the game and recognized the efforts we went to every year to give the games event status. To be able to maintain a level of excellence and host these events annually for over two decades speaks volumes about the entire Roanoke Valley.”
Salem’s partner through all of the D-III Championships has been the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and that relationship will continue into the future. The ODAC will be onboard when for NCAA Women’s Basketball comes to Salem in 2019 and 2021 at the brand new Cregger Center on the Roanoke College campus. Women’s Division III Softball and Women’s Division III Lacrosse also will be back in Salem in 2021 and 2022 at the Moyer Complex and Roanoke College’s Kerr Stadium.
“As always, we’re excited to bring yet another NCAA Division III National Championship to our region,” says Scott Allison, Roanoke College Athletic Director. “Conducting NCAA Championships on our campus helps in our efforts to spread the good name of Roanoke College. We continue to celebrate our wonderful partnership with the City of Salem and the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.”
In addition, Kerr Stadium will host the Women’s Division II Lacrosse Championship in 2021.