PENSACOLA, Fla. – President Judith Bense highlighted the University of West Florida’s vision for student life at the Argo Arrival Kickoff Pep Rally at the UWF Field House on Thursday night. The vision moves the future of football at the University of West Florida closer to reality, as she announced the university’s intention to pursue adding an intercollegiate football varsity football team, as well as potential women’s sports.
“Building a stronger student life is part of UWF’s strategic plan,” said Bense. “It’s visible, gets attention and will help us recruit students and attract the community. We must create reasons to stay in Northwest Florida once you complete your degree and build a common affinity and rally point for our students and community. We can do this by enhancing student life and building a more traditional campus here at UWF.”
Athletics, and football specifically, are just pieces of the overall vision of enhanced student life. Other critical elements include clubs, recreation, student government, Greek life, informal gathering spaces and living-learning environments. Currently student life facility projects at UWF include a new 252-bed residence hall (President’s Hall), a new health and wellness center and a new water view vista near Pace Hall. Since 2008, UWF has renovated its computer center and food court, opened a new child center, opened a 252-bed residence hall (Heritage Hall), created a gathering space near the College of Business, opened a computer “Sky Lab” in the library and opened new food venues around campus. UWF’s plan also calls for 30 percent of students living on campus, an important part of campus life.
Bense’s view for enhanced student life at UWF includes renovations and new construction for facilities in the University Park and East Sports Complex areas on campus, as laid out in EMO/ARCHITECTS, INC.’s work in the athletics facilities master plan in 2010. Possible enhancements in University Park would include a renovated field house, a new university commons and events center, additional academic facilities, and a 5,000 seat football stadium. The East Sports Complex enhancements could include a new soccer game field, new tennis courts and improvements to the baseball and softball stadiums.
The announcement by Bense comes after an 18-month long process that included recommendations from the athletics visioning team and the UWF football feasibility committee, which gave a positive recommendation for adding football. The football feasibility committee, formed as a part of Bense’s response to the UWF athletics visioning team, met from February through June. After the committee’s positive recommendation, the UWF Intercollegiate Athletics Advisory Committee (IAAC) endorsed the recommendation in a meeting on Thursday, July 21.
Bense plans to form an implementation team to address several benchmarks laid out by the football feasibility committee, including resources to fund the student life enhancements. The timing of when a potential football team would begin play would depend on developing a business plan and implementing that plan.
“This is not a promise that these student life enhancements will happen,” said Bense. “What we are saying tonight is that we want them to happen, and we will be bringing forth options to make them a reality.”
The Argonauts football team would compete in the Gulf South Conference, the same conference in which UWF competes with its 13 current teams. There are no active Division II intercollegiate football teams in the state of Florida, but Florida Tech, a Division II member of the Sunshine State Conference, has hired a head football coach and is scheduled to begin play in fall 2013.