Now that the inaugural season is in the books, the University of West Florida football program is preparing for 2017.
A dollars-and-cents study of that first year is also in the works.
The Argonauts went 5-6, tying Florida Tech and New Haven for the most wins by a first-year Division II program in the past decade. Head Coach Pete Shinnick says expectations were not solely based on the scoreboard.
“Going into the season, I really didn’t sit there and say, ‘If we win X number of games, this is what we are trying to do or that,” Shinnick said. “Really just wanted to see a team that played hard, continued to get better, and see a team that just continued to grow together.”
UWF dropped its final two games to Gulf South Conference rivals North Alabama and West Georgia by a combined score of 120-3. After the West Georgia game, a 69-0 rout, Shinnick told his players, “don’t forget how this feels.”
“I wanted our guys to never have that feeling again, of feeling like they couldn’t get anything done,” said Shinnick. “We looked like we were out of gas at that point in time, literally running in mud, and West Georgia looked like a team that had a mission. We wanted to be where West Georgia was, and we’ve got our work cut out for us in order to get there.”
For Shinnick, the memories of the first-ever season includes the first-ever game – a 45-0 shutout of Ave Maria September 3 on the road.
“To go to Ave Maria, drive that far, to have a delay – not only in the game itself but in our departure time because of the hurricane [Hermine], to watch those guys play that obviously was a highlight,” Shinnick said. “I’ve been waiting two years for that to take place.”
Meanwhile, a study is underway by UWF’s Haas Business Center, to see just how Argo football’s inaugural season impacted the local economy. Results are due out sometime in January.
“Football is one of the amenities of a growing university, just like an honors college, just like centers for excellence – it’s one of the things you have to have,” said UWF economist Rick Harper last September, while tailgating before the Argos’ first home game against Missouri S&T.
Harper added that there are things, while non-economic in nature, that do relate to quality of life. College football, he believes, is one of them.
“The people out here at the tailgate parties, bringing pies and pulled pork, they might have spent it on something else in the community,” Harper said. “But the fact that [UWF Football] is here, just like Pensacola has beautiful beaches, great medical care, all of those sorts of things, this is part of that equation.”
Many say college football has three seasons: the games, recruiting, and spring practice. This is recruiting season, and UWF Coach Pete Shinnick and his staff are on the road. As with the games, there are strategies involved in recruiting. One question is do you recruit to fill specific needs, or do you go after the best available athletes?
“A little bit of both,” Shinnick said. “We’re not going to go sign 13 running backs, but we might take one more running back that we planned on if it’s a really good crop. We’re always trying to fill positional needs; we’ll always take the best guy that we feel we can get.”
West Florida’s 2017 schedule won’t be released until next month, but this much is already known: the Argonauts open the season September 2nd on the road, because of a Pensacola Blue Wahoos home series that weekend at Bayfront.