The Stagg Bowl is heading back to Salem.
The NCAA announced Wednesday the sites for various NCAA championships for the 2022-23 through 2025-26 school years, and Salem Stadium made the cut.
The NCAA Division III football title game, otherwise known as the Stagg Bowl, was awarded to Salem Stadium for the 2023 season. It will be the first time Salem has hosted the nationally televised game since 2017, when the Stagg Bowl was played at Salem Stadium for the 25th straight year.
“We could not be more pleased,” Salem tourism director and Carey Harveycutter said in a phone interview.
The NCAA had announced in April 2017 that it was pulling the Stagg Bowl from Salem Stadium after the 2017 season in favor of newer, larger stadiums in Shenandoah, Texas and Canton, Ohio.
But the 2023 game will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stagg Bowl. With Salem having hosted 25 of those games, Salem and ODAC officials decided to make a pitch for the golden anniversary game.
Harveycutter said he was pleasantly surprised that the NCAA accepted Salem’s proposal.
“It’s the 50th anniversary of the game, and we thought that was a great opportunity to highlight the locale that had hosted the game for 25 years,” said Harveycutter, who is the game manager for Salem’s NCAA championships. “I thought we made a compelling case … [regarding] nostalgia, [and] the fact that I felt we deserved the game to return because of the 25 years we had invested with NCAA Division III football. We continue to be a very good locale, a central location.
“A lot of people have built tremendous football facilities, but it’s good to go home — where you were for so many years — and to have the love of the people in Salem, with good, Southern hospitality.”
Salem first hosted the Stagg Bowl in 1993.
“They did such a good job running it as many years as they did,” said Wisconsin-Stout athletic director Duey Naatz, who is the chairman of the Division III football committee. “Chalk it up for tradition’s sake.
“Carey and his crew and the entire Salem-Roanoke group pulled on the heartstrings, I guess, a little bit with the committee to have the 50th be in Salem.
“It was important to the committee that the 50th be in Salem.”
Naatz said he did not recall who else bid for the 2023 game.
The 7,157-seat Salem Stadium debuted in 1985.
In addition to the lure of newer stadiums, the NCAA had also opted to take the Stagg Bowl away from Salem in April 2017 for financial and attendance reasons. The NCAA had to reimburse Salem about $35,000 each year in the final years of the Salem era. The NCAA was also intrigued by a potential attendance boost. The 2016 game drew just 3,476 fans to Salem Stadium, while the 2017 game drew 4,971 fans.
Salem and the ODAC (the host conference) bid only on the 2023 game and not on the other three games in the four-year cycle.
The 2022 game will be held at Navy’s stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, for the first time. The 2024 game will be held at Turner Stadium in Humble, Texas, for the first time.
The 2025 game will be held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. That stadium had previously been awarded the 2020 game (which will not be held this year because of the coronavirus pandemic) and the 2021 game.
The city of Salem was awarded a total of 15 NCAA championships in the new four-year cycle Wednesday, while Roanoke and Lexington each landed one.
All but one of the sports awarded to Western Virginia sites Wednesday have previously crowned champions in the region. The Division III men’s volleyball championships will be held at Roanoke College’s Cregger Center for the first time in 2025.
The Division III wrestling championships will return to Roanoke’s Berglund Center in 2023, with Ferrum College again serving as the host school.
The Division III field hockey semifinals and final will return to Washington and Lee in 2022.
In addition to the Stagg Bowl, other championships returning to Salem are:
n The 2022, 2023 and 2025 Division III men’s soccer semifinals and final (Roanoke College’s Kerr Stadium).
n The 2022, 2023 and 2025 Division III women’s soccer semifinals and final (Kerr Stadium).
n The 2023 and 2024 Division III women’s lacrosse championships (Kerr Stadium).
n The 2024 and 2026 Division III softball championships (Moyer Sports Complex).
n The 2024 Division III women’s volleyball championships (Cregger Center).
n The 2025 and 2026 Division III women’s basketball semifinals and final (Cregger Center).
In other championships of note, the University of Virginia will host the 2023 Division I men’s and women’s cross country championships at its course in Earlyville, while a 2025 Division I men’s golf regional will be held at Poplar Grove Golf Course in Amherst.
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