NCAA selects ETBU as site for 2023 NCAA Division III National Softball Championship

NCAA selects ETBU as site for 2023 NCAA Division III National Softball Championship
ETBU Softball (Source: East Texas Baptist University)

MARSHALL, Texas - (PRESS RELEASE) - East Texas Baptist University has been selected to host the 2023 NCAA Division III National Softball Championship at Taylor Field.

“We are honored that the NCAA selected ETBU and the city of Marshall to show hospitality for championship teams that will travel and have the best quality championship experience,” Tiger Softball Head Coach Janae Shirley said. “ETBU Softball has been blessed through our softball complex, championship program, and support of our local community. We are excited to pass forward these blessings to the teams that will compete here in Marshall and utilize our outstanding facility. In addition, we are proud to be able to offer an on-a-university-campus championship experience for these premiere collegiate athletes.”

Originally constructed in 1998, Taylor Field has continually been improved to ensure a quality environment. In 2017, Tiger Softball completed fundraising for a facility enhancement campaign to secure the funds for the nationally-awarded 3,000 square foot Tiger Softball Clubhouse and athletic complex as it stands today, featuring a locker room for 32 student-athletes, coaches' offices, and lounge/den area for team meetings, academic study, and student-athlete fellowship. In addition to the clubhouse, ETBU upgraded Taylor Field with an artificial playing surface by Symmetry Sports Construction of Mt. Pleasant, Texas in the infield and outfield, a new padded outfield/foul territory walls for enhanced player safety, backstop netting, handicapped-access stands in the left and right fields, and a berm for additional seating in center field. Along with the pristine first-class accommodations available at ETBU’s softball complex, the University plans for grandstands expansion and other facility improvements in anticipation of necessary seating for the 2023 NCAA Division III National Tournament which is scheduled for May 25-30, 2023. The NCAA has selected more than 450 host sites for preliminary rounds and finals of predetermined championships in Divisions I, II and III to be held from 2023 through 2026 from over 3,000 bid submissions to host, and ETBU was successful in its national tournament host bid selection through providing a first-class facility with the capacity to host these highly-coveted championships.

In 2018, the ETBU Tiger Softball Clubhouse and Taylor Field was recognized by Turface Athletics as National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Field of the Year in NCAA Division III. Selected by the NFCA Awards Committee, the top fields and stadiums in the nation are recognized for their exceptional playing surfaces and grounds maintenance. Other winners were Texas A&M (DI), Davenport University (DII), ETBU (DIII), Georgia Gwinnett (NAIA), Vernon College (NJCAA DI), Mt. San Antonio College (Cal JC), Columbia Basin College (NWAC), and Vicksburg (Miss.) HS. In addition, ETBU’s softball facility was praised as an Outstanding Design by American School & University Architectural Portfolio in early 2019, as well as received an Outstanding Project Award for excellence in educational facility design in the Fall 2018 edition of Learning by Design.

“We are grateful to our faithful supporters, alumni, coaches, and staff, who have enabled us to construct one of the top facilities in the country, and in turn, allow us the capability to host large scale softball events,” ETBU Vice President for Athletics said. “These championship games within ETBU’s award-winning softball facility will not only showcase ETBU softball, but will also give many the chance to see our region possibly for the first time. If we qualify for post-season NCAA play, as we have for 10 of the last 11 years, ETBU will have the unique opportunity to play on their home field with hometown fans.”

This is the first time East Texas Baptist will host an NCAA Softball National Championship. However, Tiger Softball is no stranger to NCAA championship success. This announcement comes on the coat-tails of their number one NCAA Division III finish as voted by the NFCA, and ETBU Softball is poised for a successful season this Spring following their 15-0 record, which was the team’s first-ever undefeated season. In addition to their record-setting season and many accolades, ETBU Softball has a history of NCAA achievements, including winning the national championship title in 2010.

“Hosting this NCAA National Championship in East Texas will bring thousands to our beautiful and welcoming community,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said. “The Marshall and regional economy will be bolstered by this event as well as ETBU’s excellence in facilities, service, and hospitality to host future NCAA tournaments. These championships will bring greater recognition and garner even more interest for our University here on the Hill and for the city of Marshall. We are grateful to the NCAA for selecting us to host among so many other institutions and municipalities which applied for this prestigious opportunity.”

For only the third time in its history, the NCAA undertook a site selection process where most of its championships were put out for bid at the same time.

The result: The Association made more than 450 selections of host sites for preliminary rounds and final sites of predetermined championships in Divisions I, II and III, with most to be held from 2022-23 through 2025-26.

The NCAA received more than 3,000 bid submissions from NCAA member schools, conferences, sports commissions and cities vying to host predetermined rounds for 86 of the NCAA’s 90 championships. The sites were selected by the respective NCAA sports committees and approved by the divisional competition oversight and championships committees.

Division I baseball, Division I softball and the championship game of the Football Championship Subdivision were omitted from the process due to existing contracts. In addition, Division III women’s ice hockey was not included, as predetermined sites are not selected.

“The response of our membership, host cities and local organizing committees to this process was tremendous,” said Joni Comstock, NCAA senior vice president of championships. “Thanks to their commitment, we are excited that our student-athletes will play in some of the top locations and venues in the United States.”

Forty-three states plus the District of Columbia were selected to host at least one NCAA championship event, with California garnering the most, with 34. Texas was second with 30, while North Carolina totaled 28, followed by Pennsylvania with 27 and Ohio with 25.

This was the first time the site selection process has been held since the NCAA changed its policy preventing states with legal wagering based on single-game betting from hosting its championships. Therefore, the state of Nevada will host a predetermined NCAA championship for the first time since 1991, when the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of UNLV hosted a Division I Women’s Basketball Regional. The Silver State will host 11 events, including a 2023 Division I Men’s Basketball Regional and the 2026 Men’s Frozen Four.

“While the NCAA seeks federal legislation to better regulate sports wagering, particularly to safeguard college sports competitions, we are excited to bring our national championships to Las Vegas,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball. “The city has hosted numerous championships sponsored by our member conferences, and the experience of the teams and fans has been overwhelmingly positive. We anticipate that being the case for our championships as well.”

Another highlight of the site selection is the announcement of the 2025 and 2026 Division I Women’s Final Fours. Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, will serve as the site in 2025, while Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix will host in 2026. Tampa Bay will host the Women’s Final Four for a record fourth time, while Phoenix will host its first.

Tampa Bay has welcomed more fans in Women’s Final Four history than any other city, with a combined 123,039 fans attending in 2008, 2015 and 2019. In 2019, sellout crowds in Amalie Arena totaled 40,189 fans as the Baylor Lady Bears claimed the national championship. The University of South Florida and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission will serve as co-hosts, with games played April 4 and 6, 2025.

The state of Arizona will play host to the Women’s Final Four for the first time when Phoenix hosts in 2026. The event was last held in the Mountain and Pacific time zones in 2012 in Denver and 1999 in San Jose, California. Games at Talking Stick Resort Arena will be played over Easter weekend, with the national semifinals April 3 and the national championship decided April 5, 2026. Arizona State will serve as the host school.

“This bid cycle was significant for Division I women’s basketball, as we were able to identify two outstanding future host cities for the Women’s Final Four in 2025 and 2026 and named the eight regional host sites that will be part of our new two-site regional format that is in play beginning in 2023,” said Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president of women’s basketball. “I am pleased that over the next six years we will play in several new markets, while providing enhanced hosting opportunities.”

Another notable highlight of the bid selection process has the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida, with its 100-court facility, serving as the venue for all six tennis championships in 2023. It will mark the first time in NCAA history that men’s and women’s championships in all three divisions of the same sport are held at the same time in the same venue.

In addition, Division II will host a basketball festival in 2026 with both its men’s and women’s Elite Eights at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh. In addition, Division II will continue to host its other National Championships Festivals, as the 2022 fall festival will be held in Seattle, with the 2024 spring festival in Orlando and the 2025 winter festival in Indianapolis.

In Division III, the Stagg Bowl, Division III’s football championship game, will be hosted in 2022 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium on the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, for the first time in history. Then, in 2023, the Stagg Bowl will return to Salem Stadium in Salem, Virginia, for the first time since 2017, the last of 25 straight championship games played in that venue.

The NCAA sports committees made the nearly 450 selections of host sites based on criteria that included the ability to create an outstanding experience for student-athletes, along with adherence to NCAA sport-specific bid specifications.

Specifications can include, but are not limited to, providing optimal facilities; ease of travel to the location and ample lodging; and adherence to NCAA principles, which include providing an atmosphere that is safe and respects the dignity of all attendees.

For the complete list of NCAA championship sites, click here.

Other highlights of the championship sites include:

  • The University of Dayton will continue to host the NCAA First Four through at least 2026, as it has served as the site for the start of the Division I men’s basketball tournament since 2001. University of Dayton Arena has hosted 125 men’s basketball tournament games, the most of any facility.
  • Kansas City, Missouri, has hosted more NCAA men’s basketball tournament games than any other city, with 134. That total will increase, as the T-Mobile Center will host a 2023 Division I men’s basketball regional.
  • The new Climate Pledge Arena in the Seattle Center in Seattle will be a 2023 regional site for Division I women’s basketball and a 2025 first- and second-round site for Division I men’s basketball.
  • Division I women’s basketball is undergoing a format change and identified eight host cities that will serve as hosts for the regional rounds from 2023 to 2026. Beginning in 2023, regional play will be held at two sites per year, with eight teams competing at each site.
  • The National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship will continue to be held at Gulf Beach Place in Gulf Shores, Alabama, in 2023 and 2024 before moving locations for the first time. In 2025 and 2026, the Huntington Beach Pier in Huntington Beach, California, will be the championship location.
  • In 2025 and 2026, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, will host the Divisions I, II and III Men’s Lacrosse Championships, in addition to the Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship, on the same weekend. In 2017, Gillette Stadium was the site for all four championships, when the Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship set its all-time attendance record, which still stands.
  • The 2024 Division I Men’s Soccer Championship will be held in Sacramento, California, at the new Sacramento Republic FC Stadium. It will be the first time for Sacramento as a host, but the sixth different site in California to host the College Cup, joining Berkeley (1966, 1977), San Jose (1969), Palo Alto (1981), Carson (2004) and Santa Barbara (2010, 2018).
  • In 2025, the Division I Wrestling Championships are headed to Philadelphia for the second time. The previous time was in 2011, when the City of Brotherly Love became the first host site to surpass 100,000 for total attendance, setting a then-record of 104,260.

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