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Argos To Play First Game On Campus

UWF Football vs. Valdosta State 2019
Morgan Givens
The UWF Argonauts football team travelled to Valdosta State to take on the No. 1 ranked Blazers on Nov. 9, 2019. After trailing by 20 at halftime, the Argos stormed back, but ultimately fell short 26-21.

When the University of West Florida kicks off its defense of the Division-2 national football championship, it will include a home game – quite literally.

After opening on the road at Davison-one McNeese State, the Argos’ home opener is set for September 11 against Southwest Baptist of Bolivar, Missouri. But instead of Blue Wahoos Stadium, in a first for the program, the game will be played on campus, at Pen Air Field.

“The opportunity is obviously with Major League Baseball and what the Wahoos are doing; there’s only so many options for us, where are we going to play,” said Head Coach Pete Shinnick. “And we couldn’t think of a better place to play than Pen Air Field right here on the UWF campus,” said Shinnick, speaking on a windy day at Pen Air.

“I think you got a great historic opportunity in our young history as a program; this just adds to that list of fun opportunities for us,” the coach added.

Normally the UWF practice field, the game with the Bearcats at Pen Air will be a once-only affair. Kickoff is set for six o’clock.

“We’re looking at what we do in the outfield in Blue Wahoos Stadium — putting those bleachers here at Pen Air Field,” said Shinnick. “And then trying to cram probably whatever they say we can around that. I think it’s going to be a fun opportunity really for our student body, especially.”

One side benefit of playing the game at UWF, says Shinnick, is the opportunity to show off the campus and provide a close-up look at what’s there and what’s going on.

John Blackie/UWF
University of West Florida Football coach Pete Shinnick.

“I think it’s really going to be great, really, for all of the colleges within our university to host alumni; to host future prospects, to get as many people back on this campus as possible. Hopefully, it will be one of the biggest events ever held, spectator-wise, on campus. We’ve got the opportunity to do that, do it on a Saturday night [at a] great location, great setup.”

And to make clear -- the change of venue decision was not made 674 miles from Pensacola by the Blue Wahoos’ parent firm Miami Marlins.

“No, it was made by UWF,” said Blue Wahoos President Jonathan Griffith. Pensacola hosts the Biloxi Shuckers on September 11 as part of the Wahoos’ final homestand of the regular season. That decision was driven for the most part by logistics.

“It was going to be a very tough transition, for us to turn it into a football field, then go back to a baseball field,” Griffith said. “And all of the other facilities would be able to be used due to the COVID restrictions, in everything such as the locker rooms. It would have had to have been a show up in your uniform, play football, and then go home in your uniform type of thing.”

That there would not be enough time to transition the field to allow both games to be played on the same day took up a lot of discussion.

“They were definitely going back and forth; we were going with them about the cost and things like that, to be able to transition it,” said Griffith. “I think just logistically and everything, it just made the best sense for UWF to be able to do it on campus. That way, we can do it a little bit more leisurely for the next game.”

Part of UWF’s master plan is building an on-campus stadium around Pen Air Field. Head Coach Pete Shinnick was asked if the Southwest Baptist game will provide any ideas about how to go about doing that.

“I think that’s a little ahead, because obviously, what we’re doing is a one-time, temporary opportunity for us,” said Shinnick. “I know in the master plan of master plans there’s an opportunity for something here. But we couldn’t be happier.”

More information on the UWF-Southwest Baptist matchup, and Argonaut athletics in general, can be found at www.goargos.com.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.