UWF Football Meets The Media
Four years after first being mentioned, football at the University of West Florida begins in a week with the opening of fall camp for the 2015 practice year.
In 2011, UWF President Judy Bense held up a plain white helmet with “UWF” taped to it to announce that the effort would begin to start a football program. On Wednesday, she got to hold up the real deal: a helmet which will be game-worn.
“Holding up that helmet now, it is not a generic helmet,” Bense said. “It is an absolutely gorgeous blue, frosted white [with an] Argonaut on it. It will never look that good again.”
Around 110 players, including four Pensacola natives, make up the first Argonaut squad. The vast majority are from Florida and Alabama, with one each from Missouri, North Carolina, Mississippi, Virginia, Texas, and Germany.
Head Coach Pete Shinnick says he and his coaching staff have a very organized, detailed and ambitious fall schedule, part of which involves setting a high standard of excellence and laying the groundwork for everything that takes place.
“How do we practice? How does a young man show up to a meeting? How is he prepared for every aspect of what we’re doing?” said Shinnick. “We are educating and we are giving them an opportunity to understand what it means to be a part of the Argonaut athletic program.”
UWF opens play on September 3, 2016 in Naples against Ave Maria University. The home opener is a week later against Missouri S&T at Bayfront Stadium: the site of all five Argonaut home games. Shinnick says they want to bring to downtown in the fall, what Pensacola Blue Wahoos baseball brings in the summer.
“Anytime that I’m down there, everyone is just excited about what those Saturdays in the fall are going to be like,” Shinnick said. “The opportunity to grab a meal downtown, and walk over and see a football game.”
As far as opening the inaugural season on the road, that could become an Argo tradition, according to UWF Athletic Director Dave Scott, because of the Blue Wahoos Southern League schedule.
“With the schedule, the baseball season, I think they play that first weekend, so we’ll probably always try to play on the road that first weekend,” Scott said. “
As work progresses on building a football program at West Florida, some critics have contended that will infringe on the school’s academic mission, some have even used the phrase “football factory.” Scott responds by pointing to the numbers.
“For 21 years, our student-athletes have had a better [grade-point average] than the general student body,” said Scott. “We have a higher graduation rate than the general student body. We still have to adhere to the admission standards that all the other students adhere to. Sure, there will some who don’t make it, but that’s part of what happens with every college.”
Five intrasquad scrimmages are set for this fall, beginning September 12. Four are on campus; the fifth – on October 17 – will be at Bayfront Stadium. All scrimmages begin at 11 a.m.