By Brian Achatz
It seems like yesterday when University of West Florida President Judy Bense announced the vision for student life enhancement in fall 2011.
Two years later, the timeline for UWF football has solidified. Since 2011, UWF has increased its total to 71 Gulf South Conference championships and seven national championships. A football program would take UWF athletics to the next level.
“That’s one of the things our students lacked: the collegiate experience,” Bense said.
Bense announced that UWF will begin the hiring process for a head coach in January and will be playing Gulf South Conference football in fall 2016. Students and the community would notice an impact following the start of program. Weekends would be centered on game days, and the campus would have a new feel during the week.
Part of the UWF vision for student life includes a 44-acre university parkthat would include a 30,000-seat stadium, a student union and 1070 beds of student housing to campus.
“Football is part of student life,” Bense said. “We are not going to add any new fees for the students.”
Although the stadium is part of the university’s long-term plan, Bense said it was not a priority at this time.
“First thing we need is a practice field, second thing we need is a training facility for the players and coaches,” Bense said. “There are plenty of places to play in Pensacola.”
While fundraising can be a daunting task, Athletic Director Dave Scott and Bense are confident the Football Founders Club will rise to the challenge.
“It’s hard to get people to buy into a dream that doesn’t have a time frame,” Scott said. “Now that we have a date it will be easier to get people to jump on board.”
UWF will be the only public university in the state with a Division II football program in fall 2016. This distinction would be advantageous for regional recruiting for the university. Florida Tech and Stetson both have programs in the state, but are private institutions.
“We have patterned some things off of Florida Tech, who has sold out their inaugural season seating of 5,000 seats,” Scott said. “Football is about taking our institution to the next level.”