University of North Florida President John Delaney announced to alumni Thursday morning that after exploring fielding an Ospreys football team, "we have concluded that we just can't make it work."
In January, Delaney said the university would look into the possibility of fielding a Division II NCAA football team, citing a major realignment in college athletic conferences across the country, and that the University of West Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University were considering fielding varsity football teams.
In announcing his decision not to pursue football at this time, Delaney said, "When we explored the feasibility within the budget constraints, the numbers simply did not add up."
"I have long said that a Florida university needs enrollment of about 25,000 students to properly support football," Delaney wrote to alumni. "And with our continued growth, football is probably inevitable for UNF at some point. But after in-depth analysis, we have determined that football is just not a part of the near future at UNF. However, we will continue to develop the sports and recreation fields' master plan in anticipation of long-term growth that will hopefully include Osprey football."
Delaney has said that a Florida University needs 25,000 students to properly support football because the sport would have to pay for itself through student fees. Because UNF only has about 16,500 students on campus, the fees would be too high for students to handle.
"Football is an enormously expensive sport to put on," UNF spokeswoman Sharon Ashton said. "Even when we looked at coaches' salaries, a head football coach can make $225,000 a year, and then there are typically nine assistant coaches, anywhere from $50,000-$100,000 a year, and then you have to look at scholarships and facilities."
Many students are on the same side as the school.
"I feel like the president has done a pretty good job thus far dealing with the finances of the university, and if he doesn't feel like our school has the financial capability to support it without having hikes in tuition and other fees, then I feel like he's probably right," UNF junior Dwayne DuBose said.
"We do have a nationally-ranked rugby team that went fourth in the country last year, and I think we could focus on things like that and be known as a school that kind of goes off the beaten path," UNF rugby player Ross Keen said.
Other students are on the opposite team.
"I actually call alumni and it takes away from donations," UNF junior Jessica Foxworth said. "They prefer to give to probably their graduate school that they attend like UF, FSU. So it takes away a lot of investments."
"I think we need one," UNF junior Cara Rotman added. "It definitely changes the student activities and stuff like that. It would definitely make us more interactive in student life, and I think it would just be a super positive thing."