1973-1985, the Championship Game was played at five different sites
during this thirteen year span. At this time, the game held more of a
distinction as a bowl game, rather than a championship game. It was
played under such names as the Camelia Bowl, Pioneer Bowl, and Palm
In 1985, The University of North Alabama traveled to McAllen,
TX to face North Dakota State University in the Palm Bowl. Although UNA's 35-7 loss to the Bison was something most UNA
fans would choose to forget, it was also the start of history in the
making for Florence and the Shoals Area. A group of residents,
led by Grady Liles, left McAllen that day with the dream of bringing
the championship game to the Shoals.
Part of the allure
of the game in the Shoals would be the possibility of teams from the
Southeast, Alabama, and possibly even UNA competing for a national
championship here in Florence. A bid was presented to the NCAA,
accepted, and the dream of those residents in McAllen that day became
reality. The Shoals National Championship Committee was formed with
the vision of giving the game a new identity.
The SNCC’s plan was to portray the game for
what it actually was: a true national championship game instead of a
bowl game. Therefore, the name of the game was simply changed to the
“NCAA Division II National Championship Game".
creation of a true championship atmosphere, the many events
surrounding Championship Week, and the creation of the Harlon Hill
Trophy, Division II football had finally found a home, and Florence
became the Division II Football Capital. Over the years there have
been many memorable games here in the Shoals. In 1986, the inaugural
game in the Shoals, North Dakota State defeated South Dakota.
Remember 1989, when an unusual December snow storm dumped over 2" of
snow on the eve of the game? Probably the most memorable game took
place in 1993. In one of the few Division II Championship Games
that pitted undefeated teams, North Alabama held off Indiana, PA for
the title after a furious fourth quarter that saw 37 points scored. A
blocked punt by Israel Raybon ignited North Alabama, as the Lions
overcame a 24-14 deficit with just nine minutes left in the game, and
scored 27 fourth-quarter points. The Lions led 14-3, trailed 24-14,
led 34-24, then saw IUP tie the game at 34 with just 45 seconds left.
The triple-option Lions then had 69 yards to go with less than one
minute left to play. UNA Quarterback Cody Gross put together a six
play scoring drive, scoring from one yard out with just :10 seconds
left in the game.
The game was
televised nationally by ESPN, and following the game Division II
Football Committee Chairman Doug Porter said,
II will never be the same again. This day has taken Division II
football to a level it has never seen before."
There are many memories, electrifying plays, outstanding
players and teams, and last-second scoring drives yet to come at Braly
Stadium. Why not be a part of the Championship game?