by Drew Davis, Brady Hess–
A tradition is finally coming to an end.
The NCAA Football Division III Championship is preparing for its final game in Salem, Virginia on December 15, 2017 after 25 years.
The “Stagg Bowl” was listed with the Division II softball championship and Division III men’s basketball final four as other marquee events leaving the area back in April 2017.
Mike Stevens says he can still remember the “slick” video that the City of Salem pitched to the NCAA in an attempt to host the game.
“I remember 25 years ago when this thing was brought up as an idea and I thought it was absolutely crazy,” said Mike Stevens, the Communications Director for the City of Salem. “They’re never going to get this thing here.”
Against all odds, in 1993, Salem became just the fourth city to host the Stagg Bowl, joining Phenix City, Ala., Kings Island, Ohio and Bradenton, Fla. on the list of hosts.
The game in Salem will be remembered for its high scoring contests, an appearance by nearby Bridgewater College in 2001 and the 2009 Snow Bowl.
Stevens noted that in 2009 the entire Commonwealth of Virginia was covered in snow but the only sight of green was the Salem Football Stadium.
While the NCAA has had a lot of success in Salem, they look to build in larger places.
The Division III football title game will call two new places home over the next four years. The game will be in Shenandoah, Texas for 2018 and 2019, before traveling to Canton, Ohio for 2020-2021.
The void left in Salem will not go unnoticed.
The football game leaving Salem will help contribute to a financial hole in the Roanoke Valley. The three events combined led to a $3 million to $5 million impact, according to The Roanoke Times.
However, with these losses, Salem can also count their gains. The city will host Division III women’s basketball tournament games in 2019 and 2021, Division II women’s lacrosse matchups in 2021, and Division III women’s lacrosse and Division III softball contests both in 2021 and 2022.
The final game will feature some familiar foes to the Roanoke Valley. Mount Union will make its 20th appearance in Salem, having won their last title in 2015. Mary Hardin-Baylor will make their 3rd appearance, while trying to defend their national title from 2016.
As the Stagg Bowl moves on, it will be interesting to see if another city builds a connection to the game like Salem.
“It has meant a great deal to the whole Roanoke Valley and especially the folks of Salem,” said Stevens, who was the sports director for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke for 23 years. “I think for a city the size of Salem to host an event of this magnitude that’s on ESPN for 25 straight years, it really is one of the greatest success stories in sports marketing in the Commonwealth ever. It’s unheard of.”