CANTON – The NCAA Division III Football Championship will be played in Canton for the first time Friday.
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium will host the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor from Texas and North Central College from Illinois.
The stadium gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the game kicks off shortly after 7 p.m. So, what should you know about the college football playoffs?
Why it's called the Stagg Bowl
The championship game is named after Amos Alonzo Stagg. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as both a college football player and coach in 1951. Stagg had the longest coaching career — totaling 71 years, with 41 years (1892 to 1932) at the University of Chicago, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
The championship's history
The first Stagg Bowl was in 1973 in Phenix City, Alabama. The game also has been played in Kings Island, Ohio; Bradenton, Florida; Shenandoah, Texas; and — most frequently — Salem, Virginia.
The 2020 championship, which was to be the first Stagg Bowl in Canton, was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ohio Athletic Conference and Stark County Convention and Visitors' Bureau will host the championship this year and again in 2025.
Salem has hosted the game 25 times. According to the NCAA, the University of Mount Union in Alliance has won the most championships — 13.
Why Canton was chosen
Sarah Otey, commissioner of the Ohio Athletic Conference, wasn't part of the Division III selection committee but said the football stadium and Visit Canton's partnership likely made the city an "easy choice."
"Visit Canton has been an incredible partner and has expressed interest in hosting a number of NCAA national championships, and obviously the facility there at Hall of Fame Stadium speaks for itself," she said.
Tonja Marshall, executive vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Canton, said the organization bid in 2016 to host the game and was awarded the championships for 2020 and 2021. She said the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village helped create an attractive bid and will handle the venue's ticketing and facility management.
"So we are working very much hand-in-hand with them," Marshall said.
What you can expect
As of Wednesday morning, the stadium's club seating was sold out and a total of 1,500 tickets were sold. Marshall said that already surpasses the Division III championship attendance in 2019.
Because it's an outdoor venue, capacity won't be limited by COVID-19, Otey said. The stadium can accommodate up to 23,000 people.
Game operations will remain the same, and the only real difference this year is the stadium.
"This will be a unique facility for our Division III student athletes to compete in a stadium where NFL players compete in the Hall of Fame Game," Otey said.
NCAA's Division III has a partnership with the Special Olympics, and 20% of merchandise sales go to the sports organization for people with disabilities.
"So anybody that's willing and able to purchase merchandise or programs will be supporting Special Olympics athletes," Otey said.
She encouraged Stagg Bowl fans to check visitcanton.com for more information about game day tickets, parking and rules.
"We're just excited to be in Canton," she said. "I'm really optimistic that once our schools and our fans experience the environment that Canton's able to provide, Canton will become a destination for future national championships and other sports as well."
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Here's what you need to know before Friday's Stagg Bowl in Canton