It began in 2009 with a vision that football would be a good fit for the University of West Florida.
Dr. Judy Bense, the president of the university since 2008, spearheaded the efforts to turn the dream into reality, although initially the dream was a little too big.
“Back when we had nothing, when all we had was an idea, I wanted us to go Division I and play in the SEC,” Bense said. “We hired someone to find out what it would take, but we found out it would take too much money and too big of an enrollment.”
Already an NCAA Division II school, the focus of the university shifted toward starting football at the level it was already at.
Bense placed a call to the NCAA and flooded it with questions about the minimum requirements to start a D-II football program. She wanted to know if there was an application fee, what size stadium would need to be built and if a certain number of season tickets would be required.
“There was silence on the other end of the line, and keep in mind I’m talking with the vice president of Division II, not the secretary,” Bense said. “He told me there weren’t any requirements and I said thank you. My next call was to (athletic director) Dave Scott to figure out the minimum we would need to start football on our nickel.”
A budget was formed, a timeline was laid out and money was saved and raised as the university went full steam ahead with its goal of bringing football to Pensacola.
A little over a week away from kickoff against Ave Maria in Naples, the excitement in Bense’s voice is unmistakable when she talks about UWF standing on the doorstep of school history.
Read more in the Aug. 25 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.