NAIA Championship Practice
A strip mirroring the turf of Barron Stadium was laid out in the lobby of The Forum for the NAIA Banquet of Champions that saw the teams from Morningside (Iowa) College and Marian (Ind.) University enjoy a meal and receive an official welcome from Rome and Floyd County.
The two programs will face off in the 57th annual NAIA Football National Championship today at 6:30 p.m. at the downtown stadium, which is hosting the contest for the fifth year in a row.
“I can’t tell you how happy we are that you’re here,” said Bob Berry, co-chair of the Rome Host Committee. “Rome and Floyd County are used to hosting big events but none bigger than this.”
Floyd County Commissioner Larry Maxey welcomed everyone and was complimentary to the sacrifices and struggles that the players in tonight’s game had to face on their way to the title game.
“You are the only ones here who know what it takes to be great,” Maxey said. “And even though there will be a day you will no longer be ball players, always remember what it takes to be great.”
Rome Mayor Evie McNiece, who presented keys to the city to each school’s president, spoke about the connection that the players now have with Rome.
“We hope you enjoy our city, not just this week, but we welcome you any time,” she said. “And you don’t need a key. Our doors are open to each and every one of you.”
Morningside President John Reynders recalled that he had come to Rome six years ago when the NAIA was looking at choosing the next home of the championship game.
“I admit when Rome was selected, there were some of us that looked at it skeptically,” Reynders said. “But the people of this city have gone above and beyond making this feel like a bowl game.”
NAIA also presented its National Player of the Year award that goes to the best player in the league. This year the award went to quarterback Jimmy Coy of Saint Xavier (Ill.) University.
Tonight’s game will be preceded by a street party in front of Barron Stadium called the FanZONE that will be free for all championship ticket holders.
Activities begin at 4 p.m. and will include live music, food, cornhole tournaments and an outdoor Wii competition. The game will kick off with the Silver Wings parachute demonstration team out of Fort Benning, and the national anthem will be sung by local musician Scott Thompson.
CBS Sports Network will televise the game.
IF YOU GO
What: The 57th annual NAIA Football National Championship game
When: Today, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Barron Stadium
Admission: Tickets cost $25; stadium box office will open at 3:30 p.m. today.
Note: The pedestrian bridge from The Forum to West Third Street will remain closed.