Thinking About Thinking About It

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By: Matthew Martin

The best thing about not having a football team at a college or university is that they’ll be undefeated. At least until they cave in and start a football program.
The downside is that the institution gets no real college football experience, something coveted by many, and students miss out on brisk fall Saturdays spent tailgating with friends.
For those at the University of North Florida, those fall Saturdays that are now spent watching other schools battle it out on the gridiron through their dorm room TVs may soon turn into the ultimate college experience.
UNF president John Delaney recently gave the go-ahead to the UNF Board of Trustees to start seeking input from students and faculty, as well as doing some of the behind the scenes research to see just how possible adding a football team is.
“I do want to stress that we are thinking about thinking about it,” Delaney said in an interview with the Florida Times-Union. “We’ve made no commitment. We haven’t begun discussions with faculty or looking at the budgets.”
Previously, there has been no real advancement as far as attaining a football program at UNF. Delaney has stated before that he doesn’t see it happening, but times are changing. The landscape of college athletics has done a complete paradigm shift over the past decade or so.
The most recent change underwent at UNF was the jump to Division-I in 2009. Upon that change, Delaney stressed the “three-no’s,” no change in admission standards, no academic funds to be used for athletics and no football.
“I’ve long said [we would need] 25,000 students to be able to make it work, and so I thought it was many, many years away,” Delaney said.
Delaney has since been forced to at least scratch the surface on the football hotbed due to student pressure and the rise in enrollment. UNF’s enrollment has increased from just over 14,000 in 2004 to nearly 17,000 now.
Between the rise in enrollment and the major shake-up the nation is currently witnessing in college athletics, new things could be on the rise for other small universities that find themselves in mid-major conferences. At the end of the day, it comes down to money.
“Our budget, Title IX, how it will impact our budget, we’ve got a lot of things to look at and see if it’s even affordable,” Delaney said.
As it stands right now, UNF looks to be the ultimate “tire-kicker” on the football vehicle. At this rate, a new football program may still be a few years out, 5-10 in Delaney’s best estimate, but big things could be on the horizon.

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