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The 2010 Division II National Championships Festival may be remembered as a pair of perfect storms.
Six Division II national champions were crowned at the conclusion of the Nov. 30-Dec. 4 event in Louisville, Ky., which may be remembered best for the persistent, and occasionally heavy, snow that fell on the concluding Saturday of competition. It may have been a competitive nuisance, but the flakes added a degree of novelty to Division II’s fifth Festival.
The other perfect storm was the confluence of positive factors that created the most successful Festival to date.
The partnership among host institution Bellarmine University, the University of Louisville and the city of Louisville produced a week that was filled with quality athletics experiences, excellent social and educational opportunities, and convenience for fans and participants.
“Louisville and Bellarmine were excellent hosts,” said Division II Vice President Mike Racy. “The city was big enough to offer name hotels and high-quality accommodations for our student-athletes. And there were attractions like the Muhammad Ali Center and Churchill Downs, which were great experiences for everybody.”
In addition, the location of most events was convenient, with only Saturday’s cross country finals more than 15 minutes from the hotels.
“The fact that we actually had three of the championships on the Bellarmine campus made a real difference,” Racy said. “It’s one thing for an institution to serve as a host and then facilitate the event. It’s another to host championships on your campus. To me, that was the biggest gain we made with this Festival.”
In fact, only one previous Festival – the 2006 fall event in Pensacola, Fla. – featured any competition on the host institution’s campus.
“I suspect the support of a local institution will become more significant as future sites are awarded,” said Division II Management Council chair Kathleen Brasfield of Angelo State. “We have tried it with and without, and ‘with’ appears to work much better in terms of promotion and execution.”
The next Festival is scheduled for May 2012. Racy said the Division II Championships Committee likely will review bids in February, with a decision likely by summer.
Karl Schmitt, executive director of the Louisville Sports Commission, enthusiastically recommended the event to other communities.
“It’s just fabulous,” he said. “It was an opportunity to have 800 student-athletes in our community. And beyond just having all the hotel-room stays, it was about having all these young people who are going on to careers in business coming to this community. They’ll come back someday and be with us.”
Sports commissions from Denver and Evansville scouted the Louisville event. It’s not for sure that either city will bid on the 2012 Festival, but the Evansville representatives liked what they saw.
“It’s about bringing student-athletes into our community and all the fans, obviously,” said Jim Sandgren of the Evansville Sports Corporation. “There are some economic development opportunities for us, but it certainly would be an opportunity to showcase our Division II university, the University of Southern Indiana.”
The Festivals are big enough so that communities the size of Evansville would have to be creative in figuring out how to accommodate the 800-plus competing student-athletes, along with their traveling parties and families. But Racy is pleased that they have at least considered making a run at a future Festival.
“When you get down to it,” he said, “it’s really the ultimate Division II community-engagement experience. More people are discovering that an enthusiastic host institution and a supportive community can lead to an experience that is even greater than the sum of the parts. I’m already looking forward to the next one.”