Updated: 2:16 p.m. Thursday, April 4, 2013 | Posted: 1:07 p.m. Thursday, April 4, 2013
By Stephanie Brown
Jacksonville, FL —
It was a “Hail Mary” after all.
After beginning to explore the idea of a football team just a few months ago, University of North Florida President John Delaney now says it just won’t work out.
In a letter to faculty, students and staff, Delaney still admits that “football is probably inevitable for UNF at some point”, but says after crunching the numbers, “we just can’t make it work.”
“We always knew that adding a football team was going to be very expensive,” says UNF VP of Public Relations Sharon Ashton.
Delaney says they need a student base of roughly 25,000 people in order to support the team, Ashton says that would allow them to implement fees that would support the team without burdening the students.
But those students themselves were divided. Ashton says there were a lot of football fanatics, and many people who stepped up to immediately say they would buy season tickets. But some were not as supportive of the potentially raucous atmosphere that would come with a game day.
“We like UNF being kind of a mellow, environmental campus- not necessarily sports crazy,” she says.
Ashton tells WOKV the university is beginning to work on a master plan centered on athletics and recreation, and part of that will be exploring growth options. Football, however, doesn’t look like it’s immediately part of that.
“We’re gunna take a pass on this now, but that doesn’t mean that in the future we’re not gunna take a look at it,” Ashton says.
Ashton says if they do get the opportunity in the future, it’s likely years down the road.
Delaney’s full message:
“In January, we began the process of thinking about starting a football program at UNF. At that time, I promised we would analyze the possibility, while being committed to doing what is right for our campus. After much financial examination, we have concluded that we just can’t make it work. To some, I know this is relief, as many have told me that adding a football team would ruin the unique serenity of our campus. To others, this will be a disappointment. And while I understand the feelings on both sides, when we explored the feasibility within the budget constraints, the numbers simply did not add up.
I have long said that a Florida university needs enrollment of about 25,000 students to properly support football. And most schools of that size do indeed have football. And with our continued growth, football is probably inevitable for UNF at some point. But after in-depth analysis, we have determined that football is just not a part of the near future at UNF. However, we will continue develop the sports and recreation fields' master plan in anticipation of long-term growth that will hopefully include Osprey football.
I appreciate your input. Please know that when the time is right, we will take another look at this topic.”