By BEN JOHNSON
The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association will soon have the NCAA Division II football national championship played in its own backyard.
On Wednesday, the NCAA announced that Sporting Park in Kansas City, Mo., will soon be the host of the Division II title game. The home of Sporting Kansas City — a Major League Soccer franchise — will host the D-II title game starting in 2014 and running through 2017.
"We are excited that the NCAA and the governing sports committees have recognized that Kansas City will provide a great experience for the student athletes, coaches and fans that will travel here over the next few years," Kansas City Sports Commission CEO Kathy Nelson said. "The MIAA has the expertise, commitment and passion to host these Championships and we look forward to working with their staff on these events."
The move to Kansas City gives the MIAA possible homefield advantage in the biggest game of the season. This year's Division II playoff field is down to four teams and one currently still alive is Northwest Missouri State — which is less than two hours from the Bearcats' home in Maryville, Mo.
The Division II national championship has been held in Florence, Ala., the last 26 years and was a candidate to retain the title game. Kansas City also beat out Bentonville, Ark., as a possible host site.
In addition to national championship football, the MIAA and Kansas City will welcome the Division II men's and women's national soccer championships to Swope Park in Kansas City in 2016 and 2017.
"We are thrilled that we can partner with the Kansas City Sports Commission to bring these Division II national championship events to Kansas City," MIAA Commissioner Bob Boerigter said. "Our MIAA members are excited about the possibility of watching MIAA teams play for national championships in these outstanding venues and we are confident student athletes that participate here will have a first class national championship experience."
Other regional locations to land postseason hosting honors on Wednesday included:
- ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, which will host the Division II softball national championship in 2015. It will host the Division III title series in 2017 and 2018.
- The Case Tennis Center in Tulsa will host the Division I men's and women's tennis championships in 2016.
Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City will host this season's Division I national wrestling championships. However, it won't host again until 2019 with future venues such as St. Louis (2015 and 2017), New York City (2016) and Cleveland (2018).