FRISCO, Texas — Missouri Valley Football Conference commissioner Patty Viverito and associate commissioner Mike Kern arrived here on Thursday sporting confident smiles.
And why not? They can't lose in Saturday's noon FCS national title game.
Whether Illinois State or North Dakota State prevails at Toyota Stadium, the Missouri Valley has another national championship.
"We've been celebrating for weeks," Viverito said Friday.
Through a full season of coaches, players and administrators touting the MVFC as the elite conference in FCS and the league members reinforcing that sentiment on the field, ISU and NDSU will tangle for the national championship, and in a way, the unofficial Valley crown.
The Redbirds and Bison shared the regular-season MVFC title with 7-1 records but did not play each other because of the league's rotating scheduling system.
"I've got to be honest. I was hoping back in August that would happen because we weren't going to play each other," ISU coach Brock Spack said. "I think it validates what our conference has been saying the last four or five years that this is the best FCS league in the country.
"To have us in separate (playoff) brackets and now to meet in the finals, you're darn right we were cheering (for NDSU)."
Bison coach Chris Klieman expressed a similar sentiment about two teams from the same conference squaring off in the FCS title game for the first time.
"It just goes to show you how good our league is and how good we thought it was throughout the year," said Klieman. "I'm very happy for Coach Spack and his program to be able to get to Frisco. We're excited to play another Valley opponent."
During the regular season, Valley teams were 23-1 against nonconference opponents. Add in the playoffs, and that record moves to 30-2.
The MVFC has established an FCS playoff record with nine victories, and of course, is guaranteed a 10th. The FCS, which was formerly referred to as Division I-AA, began its tournament in 1978.
"Everybody from this conference has known all along we're the best conference," Redbird offensive tackle Mike Liedtke said. "I know a lot of the East Coast media don't really respect our conference. But it's not a shock to us or NDSU we're in this spot right now."