MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (WHNT) – Shoals National Championship Committee Chairman Mitch Dobbins expressed his disappointment Wednesday that the Shoals area was not awarded the bid to continue to host the NCAA Division II Football Championship but said that the 28 years that the game has been hosted in the Shoals has been a labor of love for everyone involved.
The Division II Football Championship has been hosted in the Shoals area since 1985, with the 28th game at Braly Stadium coming up on December 21. It is the second longest continuous period that any NCAA championship in any sport has been hosted at one site, behind only Division I baseball in Omaha, Neb.
On Wednesday the NCAA announced that the 2014-17 Division II Football Championship Games would be played in Kansas City, Mo.
“It was always our goal to showcase the student-athletes and provide them with a true championship environment and provide them with life long memories,” said Dobbins. “As a committee and as a community, we could never have accomplished this goal without the tireless support of The University of North Alabama, the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, all of our city and county governments across the Shoals, local businesses and most importantly the thousands of volunteers that have worked so hard for the past 28 years. Grady Liles had a vision and the vision became a reality that was far greater than anything we or the NCAA could have ever expected.
“We will always remember the thousands of lives that we have been able to touch, all across this country,” Dobbins added.
For the first 13 years of its existence, the Division II Football Championship was played at five different locations under four different bowl names. When the Shoals area received the bid to begin hosting the game in 1986, the game began to be officially known as the NCAA Division II Football Championship Game, signifying that it was more than a bowl game, it was a national championship.
The Shoals area also took several additional steps to enhance the game in the Shoals, with the addition of “A Day to Remember” for area youth football players and the Danny Killen Reading Initiative where participating teams in the championship game visit area elementary schools that have adopted their team and read to the students.
The Shoals also added two national award programs to the championship week activites with the creation of the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is presented to the Division II National Player of the Year each December, and the creation of the Division II Football Hall of Fame.
The creation of Hill Trophy and Division II Football Hall of Fame have helped raise the profile and exposure for current and former Division II student-athletes. Jeff Hodges, who serves as chairman for both programs, said they are separate from the Division II Championship and are unique to the Shoals.
“We do plan to continue both programs in some fashion but will need some time to determine how we will proceed,” Hodges said.