The University of West Florida announced earlier this week it will field a football team beginning in the 2016 season.
Located in Pensacola, Fla., the Argos will be members of Division II. West Florida's other sports currently compete in the Gulf South Conference.
"When you go to the next level, you have football,” school president Judy Bense told PNJ.com. “It’s part of student life. It’s a part of alumni life. It’s a part of connecting with the community.”
The process of adding a football program began for West Florida back in the spring of 2009. Seven and a half years later, it will become a reality.
The school plans to add the program without any additional fees - student or otherwise. Bense estimates the cost of the program at $1.8 million per year, and will budget $1.4 million to start. West Florida will hire a head coach this spring at a salary of "something like $80,000 a year," Bense said.
The school does not have its sights on an eventual move to Division I, at least not right now.
“What we can do is schedule our games accordingly,” Bense said of competing for attention with Florida, Florida State, Alabama and Auburn. “We can complement them. We can have the games available on television during our game, whether they are before or after. ... I don’t think it’s a big conflict.”
West Florida plans to build an artificial surface practice field, but does not plan to construct an on-campus stadium. Instead, the school will play at the existing 5,100-seat Maritime Park Stadium.
West Florida will become just the second Division II program in the Sunshine State, joining Gulf South rival Florida Tech out of Melboune, Fla.