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Hayden Goethe, Published December 27 2012

Frisco not the first rodeo for FCS championship coaches

FARGO – For the North Dakota State and Sam Houston State football coaches, the best preparation will be derived from experience.

The top-ranked Bison and fifth-ranked Bearkats are in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game for the second straight season. The Jan. 5 showdown marks the first rematch in the FCS championship since Marshall and Montana met in both 1995 and 1996.

Both coaches acknowledged Thursday that having gone through that atmosphere in Frisco, Texas, last year will benefit each team next week.

“Certainly familiarity comes into play,” NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. “I’m sure (SHSU head coach Willie) Fritz and Sam Houston feel the same way. … I don’t think there are any built-in advantages, because we’re playing a team that’s been through the same experience that we have.”

Fritz agrees that last season’s experience will be helpful. But a new season always presents a new set of challenges.

“Even though we have a lot of kids coming back who played last year and the same thing with North Dakota State, they’re two different teams,” Fritz said. “Each season you kind of evolve with that team.”

The FCS championship game provides a unique atmosphere. Unlike in college basketball, where teams occasionally play regular-season games at neutral sites, that doesn’t happen often in college football.

And with the neutral site of Frisco comes the pregame pomp and circumstance fitting for a national championship game.

Bohl learned last season that there would be an increased emphasis on building a game plan before his team leaves Fargo for Frisco. The Bison and Bearkats both returned to practice at their home fields on Wednesday following a break for the holidays.

Bohl said that the Frisco build-up is not a distraction if handled right.

“The NCAA and Team Frisco have really done a great job to enrich or heighten the championship event for our student-athletes,” he said. “There’s a lot of pageantry and activities, and all of those things are great and well-meaning. … The task at hand is getting ourselves to go down there and play great (on Jan. 5).”

A sellout crowd is expected at FC Dallas Stadium, which has a capacity of 20,086. Last season’s game at FC Dallas Stadium marked the first sellout for an FCS championship since 2007.

Fritz said he hasn’t forgotten how many NDSU fans made the trip to Frisco last year.

“I think we could have had 45,000 for this game,” Fritz said. “It’s a hard ticket to get. People around here are going crazy trying to get a ticket, and I’m sure that’s the same way up in North Dakota.”

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558