October 31, 2013

Chicago In, Baltimore Out Among NCAA Championship Host Finalists

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Philadelphia is among finalists to host the NCAA men's championship from 2015-2018, along with Foxborough, Mass., and Chicago's Soldier Field. Baltimore is not a finalist for the men's or women's championship.
© Kevin P. Tucker

The NCAA has announced the host site finalists for 81 championships for the 2014-18 seasons, including men's lacrosse and women's lacrosse, and it appears the Midwest should get ready for championship weekend.

Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and Chicago's Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Bears, are finalists to host the Division I, II and III men's championships in the four-season span covering spring 2015 to 2018.

Philadelphia-area PPL Park, WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., and Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., are finalists to host the Division I and III women's championships.

Notably, Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, which had hosted men's championship weekend five times since 2003 and will host the event this spring, is not a finalist, nor was a Baltimore-area location among finalists for the women's championship.

Four finalists for the Division II women's championship were named: Nelson Field House in Bloomsburg, Pa., Kerr Stadium in Roanoke, Va., Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and University of Tampa in Florida.

The NCAA's respective sport committees will select the winning sites, which must then be approved by the appropriate divisional championships cabinets/committees before being announced via webcast at NCAA.com on Dec. 11.

Cities were able to bid for one or more years of the same championship, meaning there could be a rotation among the three finalists each on the men's and women's sides.

The men's group indicates there won't be any splitting up of the men's championship weekend format as it exists presently, since all three NCAA levels will be considered at one site.

There is a change on the women's side, with Division I and Division III championships having identical finalists, indicating they could be played at the same site in a given year.

It remains to be seen if all the finalists will be named to host a championship — or two of three at the men's and women's Division I levels, for example — but it would make sense that Philadelphia, Foxborough and the Chicago-area would host men's and women's championships in some order through spring 2018.

In recent years, the NCAA has also sought to hold the men's and women's championships in the same area to create a festival-type atmosphere and promote crossover among fans.

Declining attendance at the men's championship over the last six years has been a subject of debate. This summer, NCAA associate director of championships and alliances Anthony Holman told Lacrosse Magazine that non-NFL venues would be considered for future sites, but that also "we're not running from an NFL stadium either. We feel that if you ask our student-athletes, which we do, that playing in front of 29,000-30,000 on Monday of Memorial Day or a semifinal game is pretty exciting. We don't feel like that's been a failure in any means."

The NCAA lacrosse tournament isn't completely new to the Midwest. Just last year, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, home of the NFL's Colts, hosted a pair of Division I men's quarterfinals. It was the first time the games had been held off the East Coast of the United States. More than 7,700 fans attended.

"We had a tremendous response to the request for bids which made this an extremely difficult process for our sports committees," said Mark Lewis, NCAA executive vice president of championships and alliances. "We really feel these sites will all provide a tremendous experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans. Therefore there will be some really difficult decisions by the sport committees coming up as they determine who will ultimately host the championships."

The December announcement will also include all pre-determined regional host sites, such as Division I men's quarterfinal pods. For example, a bid is in from the Buffalo-Niagara region to host quarterfinal games at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com for more on this story.

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