The Battle of the Piney Woods is the second longest-running rivalry game according to the Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS. Starting on Nov. 17, 1923, the game has brought students and alumni together from both schools to root for their teams. It wasn’t until 2009 when the game was moved from home campus grounds to NRG Stadium in Houston, but only up to 2013. However, in 2015, it was announced that NRG would be the permanent home for the rivalry game after the extension of their contract with the stadium. It’s been a very successful game and a tradition to look forward to each fall semester. But, would it be even more beneficial to bring the game back to the home campuses?
One benefit of having the games on home grounds is having a higher chance of attendance. Although it only takes about an hour and 30 minutes for people coming from Huntsville to get to Houston for the big game, it takes about two hours and 23 minutes for those coming from Nacogdoches. Because of the long drive, most students are discouraged from going to the game, especially if they don’t have rides. Yes, there is a shuttle bus offered, but tickets to ride have ranged between 30 to 50 dollars per person. If the games were to be moved home, it would only take about an hour and 46 minutes both ways. With this, shuttle bus fares would most likely lower prices concerning the less time it would take to get to the game.
Under this week’s poll on the Pine Log Twitter account, alumni replied with their experiences at games held on home ground.
“[It] would be great for the city of Nac and it’s small businesses to have a big home game,” said Twitter user Matt Adkins.
Nacogdoches is always pushing for people to shop local first, so this would give all the local businesses more exposure as well as showing off SFA’s campus. The same could go for Huntsville. Even with the rivalry, people need to eat and shop at places no matter where it’s located. Director of Athletics Ryan Ivey agreed that there are pros and cons to leaving NRG.
“You can weigh the variables that come with playing at a neutral site were approximately 40% of our alumni reside, or on-campus sites that provide an opportunity to bring individuals (alumni, students and prospective students alike) to Nacogdoches in order for us to showcase our beautiful campus,” said Ivey.
Yet for every pro, there is a con.
NRG stadium does hold more seats than both Homer Bryce and Elliott T. Bowers, with Homer Bryce holding 14,575 actual seats (25,000 capacity with hills), Elliott T. Bowers holding 12,593 seats and NRG holding 72,220. It's easier said than done to move away from playing at NRG. For one, the schools would have to end their contract with Lone Star Sports and Entertainment, which allowed them to continue playing in Houston.
“There are notices and contractual obligations we must adhere to in moving forward with playing or not playing at NRG,” said Ivey.
Another issue is the game doesn’t cost SFA anything, for LSSE and NRG cover the expenses of the game being held there. Even with both sides of the coin showing exactly how things would go if the school were to go back like how things were 10 years ago, it’s still not a bad idea to take into consideration.