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Even without the Bison, fans still flock to Frisco

James Madison players celebrate their FCS championship win over Youngstown State on Saturday, Jan. 7, in Frisco, Texas. In the background is the south end zone where construction eliminated 5,000 seats for the game. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

FARGO—Tom Burnett wasn't sure what to expect at last Saturday's Football Championship Subdivision national title game in Frisco, Texas—especially with North Dakota State not playing in the game for the first time in five years.

"Some people might have had their doubts when the Bison lost in the semifinals," said Burnett, the commissioner of the Southland Conference that acts as the host conference for the FCS title game.

Those doubts were wiped away when, once again, Toyota Stadium was filled with fans who watched James Madison—the team that knocked off five-time defending champion NDSU in the semifinals—claim a 28-14 win over Youngstown State.

The official attendance was 14,423—down from the 20,000 fans who watched NDSU win five straight titles from 2011 to 2015. But a big reason for the decline was that 5,000 seats in the south end zone were eliminated because of construction for renovations being made at the stadium that is the home of the FC Dallas professional soccer team.

James Madison, which annually is one of the leaders in FCS home attendance, had the majority of the fans at last Saturday's game.

"James Madison has a pretty good national alumni base ... they came from all over, not just Virginia," Burnett said of the school located in Harrisonburg, Va. "It looked like they followed the blueprint of the Bison fans.

"I think the experience with NDSU has shown other fan bases around the country that this is a must-see and must-attend event. I hope this isn't isolated to just a few teams. To some degree, I think this will be a pretty hot ticket in most years if you get some mainstream FCS power to play here."

Frisco has been the home of the FCS championship game since the 2010 season—when 13,027 fans watched Eastern Washington defeat Delaware. During the next five championship games—thanks to NDSU's loyal following—the attendance ranged from 19,802 to 21,836.

"We just had a new group of people in town this year," Burnett said. "It kind of reminded me of the first year NDSU was here."

Frisco has three years remaining on a four-year contract to host the FCS championship game. Burnett said construction of a new soccer Hall of Fame will be complete in time for the next title game—with 5,000 seats expected back in the south end zone plus new football locker rooms in the south end zone.

Bison No. 3 in final football polls

NDSU, which had its bid for a sixth straight national championship end with a semifinal loss to eventual champion James Madison, finished third in the final two FCS polls.

The Bison finished third behind top-ranked and national champion James Madison and No. 2 and runner-up Youngstown State in the STATS media top 25 poll and the FCS coaches top 25 poll.

South Dakota State finished No. 6 in the STATS poll and No. 7 in the coaches poll, while North Dakota finished 12th in both polls.

STATS FCS Media Top 25

1. James Madison (154) 14-1 3,850

2. Youngstown State 12-4 3,631

3. North Dakota State 12-2 3,492

4. Eastern Washington 12-2 3,428

5. Sam Houston State 12-1 3,067

6. South Dakota State 9-4 2,944

7. Jacksonville State 10-2 2,776

8. Richmond 10-4 2,666

9. Wofford 10-4 2,532

10. Citadel 10-2 2,386

11. Villanova 9-4 2,225

12. North Dakota 9-3 2,133

13. Chattanooga 9-4 2,091

14. Central Arkansas 10-3 1,798

15. Charleston Southern 7-4 1,605

16. Grambling State 11-1 1,496

17. New Hampshire 8-5 1,323

18. Coastal Carolina 10-2 1,164

19. San Diego 10-2 956

20. North Carolina A&T 9-3 915

21. Lehigh 9-3 776

22. North Carolina Central 9-3 716

23. Samford 7-5 624

24. Cal Poly 7-5 538

25. Weber State 7-5 284

Others receiving votes: Illinois State 167, St. Francis 116, Princeton 83, Albany 65, Tennessee Martin 31, Montana 30, Penn 22, Western Illinois 19, Fordham 17, Maine 17, Southeastern Louisiana 17, Northern Iowa 8, Kennesaw State 8, Duquesne 6, Southern University 6, Northern Arizona 5, Tennessee State 5, Southern Utah 4, Stony Brook 4, Dayton 2, McNeese State.

FCS Coaches Top 25

1. James Madison (26) 14-1 650

2. Youngstown State 12-4 607

3. North Dakota State 12-2 599

4. Eastern Washington 12-2 574

5. Sam Houston State 12-1 519

6. Jacksonville State 10-2 494

7. South Dakota State 9-4 469

8. Richmond 10-4 444

9. Citadel 10-2 404

10. Chattanooga 9-4 388

11. Wofford 10-4 374

12. North Dakota 9-3 373

13. Villanova 9-4 2,225

14. Charleston Southern 7-4 292

15. Grambling State 11-1 286

16. Central Arkansas 10-3 281

17. New Hampshire 8-5 217

18. Lehigh 9-3 206

19. North Carolina Central 9-3 176

20. North Carolina A&T 9-3 169

21. San Diego 10-2 121

21. Cal Poly 7-5 121

23. Samford 7-5 104

24. Weber State 7-5 73

25. Montana 6-5 33

Others receiving votes: Illinois State 25, St. Francis 21, Princeton 20, South Dakota 19, Albany 15, Southeastern Louisiana 14, Kennesaw State 9, Southern Utah 7, Fordham 4, Penn 4, Tennessee-Martin 2..

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