The Road To Frisco Runs Through Harrisonburg

Frisco, Texas, became the home of the FCS National Championship in 2010, and since, has been the one destination most every program has circled on its map.

Dozens of teams open fall camp with designs on spending January in North Texas; very few have done so since the title game’s move almost a decade ago. 

In fact, the Colonial Athletic Association is one of only two conferences to have sent more than one program to Frisco. 

Three Is A Magic Number

Big Sky: Eastern Washington (2010, 2018) 

Ohio Valley: Jacksonville State (2015)

Southland: Sam Houston State (2011, 2012) 

MVFC: Illinois State (2014); North Dakota State (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018); Youngstown State (2016) 

COLONIAL: Delaware (2010); James Madison (2016, 2017); Towson (2013)  

That continues a theme dating back to the final days of the FCS Championship in Chattanooga. The CAA won the last two titles awarded at Finley Stadium; and with Richmond and Villanova standing atop the mountain in 2008 and 2009, joined by James Madison in 2016, the CAA is the only conference with multiple programs winning national championships in the past decade. 

This year, the CAA sends three teams to the FCS Playoffs: James Madison, UAlbany and Villanova. 

Your 11 vs. Our 11

Colonial parity is again reflected with UAlbany making the field. The Great Danes’ first playoff appearance since 2011, and just the second in program history, marks their first under the CAA banner. 

With UAlbany called on Selection Sunday, 11 of the Colonial’s 12 current members have made the playoffs as members since the conference’s inception. 

The Great Danes would have been the 10th program, beating out Elon by a year in 2016, but were excluded at 7-4. This year’s defeat of Stony Brook in the Empire Clash ensured UAlbany not just a berth, but a home game against Central Connecticut State. 

“If I would have to go before a committee to marry my wife, I probably would have been rejected,” Gattuso joked, before adding a dash of earnestness. “It hurt three years ago. But these kids, they understood: We control our own destiny. They adopted that as a model as the year went on.” 

Memories Of Playoffs Past

Mark Ferrante referred to the 2019 Villanova Wildcats as having “a road warrior mentality,” and they’ll have to summon more of that to reach Frisco. 

No team has ever made it to Frisco without playing a single home game. It did almost happen, however, from a team '19 Villanova can summon some inspiration from: 2010 Villanova. 

In an injury-plagued season, the defending national champion Wildcats squeaked into the field with a Battle of the Blue defeat of Delaware, 28-21.

Finally playing near full-strength, Villanova went on a run to the semifinals and were within one possession with a minute remaining from forcing a Battle of the Blue rematch in Frisco.  

Villanova’s 2010 playoffs opened in Southland Conference country against Stephen F. Austin. The 2019 playoffs begin for the Wildcats again in SLC territory, this time opposite Southeastern Louisiana. 

Although not a call-back to 2010, a win over SELA sets up Villanova with a rematch against Montana, the program the Wildcats defeated to win the 2009 national championship. 

Logging Miles

Mapping a hypothetical Villanova trek to the semifinals, should everything outside of the Wildcats go chalk, looks like this: 

  • 1,236 miles to Southeastern Louisiana 
  • 2,345 miles to Montana 
  • 2,118 miles to Weber State

Ferrante said the travel doesn’t bother his team; in particular, the first round trip to SELA includes a direct flight from Philadelphia to New Orleans. 

But the last leg of a trip to Frisco would take Villanova to James Madison, a considerably easier trip than any of the potential dates along the way before. 

Add the 270 miles of going to James Madison with the three preceding dates, and the 1,460 miles to Frisco, and the Wildcats would log the equivalent of a flight from Philly to Shanghai. 

Home Sweet Home

Drawing a home game in the playoffs is special. UAlbany’s Karl Mofor knows it. 

“I’m feeling very happy and confident about a home-field game,” he said. “It’s a big jump from playing away in terms of confidence.” 

If home field provides confidence, James Madison has plenty of reason to feel optimistic about its third trip to Frisco in four years. With the No. 2 overall seed, the Dukes remain at Bridgeforth Stadium all the way through the semifinals. 

Quarterback Ben DiNucci said heading into James Madison’s regular-season finale: “Playing in front of that stadium has been awesome for me. Hopefully [Week 12] won’t be the last one.” 

Yeah – turns out the CAA Offensive Player of the Year had nothing to worry about. 

Bridgeforth should be rocking for as long as the Dukes are playing in these playoffs. If they can get back to Frisco, it won’t just be the state of North Dakota trying to annex that particular part of North Texas. 

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UAlbany won’t need to flip a switch to go into 'playoff mode' when the Great Danes host Central Connecticut State.