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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 04 2013

Southland commissioner keeps busy as Frisco point man

FRISCO, Texas – If the number of hats Southland Commissioner Tom Burnett wears this week are the big-brimmed cowboy type, he better have a big closet. There’s plenty on the plate for the leader of the league that hosts the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game.

And that doesn’t even include having one of his teams – Sam Houston State – in the title game for the second year in a row.

“I think I woke up Saturday morning last year and said, ‘Oh yeah, I have a team in the game,’ ” Burnett said. “My responsibilities at that point are to watch the game and be a fan.”

Not so much leading up to it, however. Like last year, the battle for tickets was a main issue this year, and it will most likely be another subject of evaluation after this year’s game.

“What we’ve seen is much more pressure on tickets,” Burnett said. “We sold it out last year and a lot of people missed out. Well, we told them to buy them in September or buy them in October.”

Fans did buy them early, but most of those were from northern addresses. Many NDSU fans that went through a ticket fiasco last year in trying to get title game seats didn’t bother to wait for the school’s allotment if it did win the FCS semifinal games.

“As we saw, some North Dakota State fans that bought tickets through the public outlet early on, and that’s created another sense of urgency here with ticket sales,” Burnett said.

The NCAA controls the tickets for the game. It upped its allotment to each school from 4,000 to 4,500 this year, which Burnett says is a high number for the organization.

“Certainly, we would like everybody possible to get tickets,” he said. “We would like all 18,000-or-so in the Fargodome, if they could be at this game, to be here. I think it’s something over time that is going to get worked out.”

Today’s title game will mark the first back-to-back championship crowds of at least 20,000 fans since the 1990s when the game was in Chattanooga, Tenn. NDSU is expected to have upwards of 60 to 70 percent of the crowd base at 20,086-seat FC Dallas Stadium.

Burnett, meanwhile, will know most of his work is done. There will be more; the NCAA and Team Frisco signed another three-year agreement to host the game.

“As the host, we’re really proud we have the opportunity to put on a great event regardless of who the teams are,” Burnett said. “But having a team in the game itself is a cherry on top.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia