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UWF Announces First Football Signee Class

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Wednesday was National Signing Day for high school football players seeking a college and vice versa. For the first time, the list of universities competing for talent includes the University of West Florida, which begins play in 2016.

UWF football coaches started early, around 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, when letters of intent from student-athletes could legally be submitted. The Argo Athletic Club on campus was used as a war room of sorts, the coaches and other staff monitoring laptops for the emailed letters. After they were certified by NCAA Compliance Director Meghan Barter, the players’ names were added to a big screen right up to the mid-afternoon news conference.

Matt Rowley, the Director of Athletic Communications for the University of West Florida kicked things off by introducing Head Coach Pete Shinnick.

“We were looking for a special young man who could catch the vision of what we are going to do, what our future would be like” said Shinnick. “Someone who didn’t need to see a building, someone who didn’t need to see exactly the field they’re going to play on, but have an idea of what all of that would look like and say, ‘This is where I want to spend the next five years.’”

Players will be red-shirted for the 2015 season, then have four years’ eligibility beginning in 2016.

Of the 32 members of the inaugural signing class, 21 are from Florida, from Pensacola to Miami. The remaining 11 are from Alabama. They fill every position on offense and defense. Kickers and punters will be added later.

“I’m a very happy president, I’m a very proud president, of all those young men who bought into our vision,” said UWF President Judy Bense. She says with the first signees now aboard, the next step is the March groundbreaking of the football facilities.

“It will include a building that will be for all of the sports, but it will also house football,” said Bense. “It will be a training facility, physical therapy, offices for many of our coaches, meeting rooms upstairs, and locker rooms. It will be an overall athletic facility.”

It’s not just on-field ability that the Argonaut players must display. Coach Pete Shinnick has set academic standards, such as a 2.5 grade point average, and at least a 19 on the American College Test, or ACT.

“We challenged each one of them to say, ‘Look, in four and a half years, five years, we want you to see a degree with the University of West Florida’s name on it hanging in your office,’” Shinnick said. “The average GPA for this group is 3.4, with an average cumulative ACT score of 22 (out of a perfect score of 36).”

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
UWF Head Football Coach Pete Shinnick

  Seventy-five players are expected to form the original roster, with that number projected to rise to around 100 for practice this fall. Shinnick says they plan 5-6 intra-squad scrimmages that will be “live.” In football parlance, that means full pads and full speed like an actual game.

For President Judy Bense, having actual names on a football roster is a step closer to one of her main goals since taking office in 2008.

“Which is engage our community, engage the alumni, engage the people of northwest Florida,” Bense said. “There is nothing more engaging than football.”

Football becomes the 15th varsity sport at the University of West Florida, and Bense says it’s likely it won’t the last one to be added. Athletic Director Dave Scott is said to be looking at lacrosse and outdoor track. Since both sports are played by both men and women, their addition would also satisfy all Title IX requirements regarding gender equality.

And in a somewhat related matter, Bense says work on a UWF fight song is expected to begin sometime in the 2015-16 school year. She’s adamant that UWF will not “borrow” a fight song from another school.

For a list of signees, walk-ons and transfers, go HERE.

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.