Earlier this year the NAIA asked that its contract with the local community end two years early after the 2013 game. But NAIA President Jim Carr left the door wide open to having Rome and Floyd County to continue to host the game in the future.
“When Shorter decided to make its move (from the NAIA to NCAA Division II) there was a change in the host committee, so we worked with the folks in Rome. They are doing a great job. We said, ‘let’s look at the next two years and see how the changes affect the event,’” Carr said Thursday night on the sidelines at Barron Stadium.
Bob Berry, the Rome attorney who co-chairs the local organizing committee, said it’s been his impression that some of the NAIA coaches have not been happy with the organization’s decision to cut the contract short in Rome.
“They’ve been telling (Carr) that you won’t have this experience any place else,” Berry said.
Carr was positive about the experience in Rome, although noncommittal.
“They (the local organizing committee) have done a wonderful job, and we’d like to talk to them about continuing on,” Carr said. “We just thought to shorten it made a lot of sense from both sides. They were concerned about their resources.”
Carr pointed out that while Shorter University and Berry College are no longer NAIA institutions, there is no requirement that the game be played in a community with a member college. Before coming to Rome four years ago, the NAIA championship was played in Savannah, Tenn., for 12 years. The nearest NAIA institution was Union University, almost 50 miles away in Jackson, Tenn.
Berry said that to make the event more profitable the game still needs more local ticket sales.
“Candidly, that’s where we are missing the boat financially,” Berry said. “They say, ‘well, we don’t know the teams involved.’ My response to that is it’s not really about who the teams are. This is a huge event. We are one of four cities in the entire country to host a college football championship. That’s very unique, and we ought to support the event for our community because of the economic impact it has.”
The game has provided a million dollar-plus bump for the local community during a month when there isn’t whole lot else going on tourism-wise.
“If the NAIA, after thinking upon their decision, thought they would like to open conversation again, we certainly would be willing to have that conversation,” Berry said.