The Pensacola area has always worshiped college football like a religion. Yet somehow it has taken until 2011 before talks of having a college football program actually exist in the area.
Though the closest Division-1 program is in Tallahassee, and another is soon going to be in Mobile, there are no other college football programs in the state of Florida outside of the two D-1 subdivisions. That is, until, this past summer, when the University of West Florida announced it would be pursuing football in the coming years.
With all of the talk of college football finally coming to Pensacola, the question of why Pensacola State does not field a football program has now been raised.
While the issue of costs associated with starting a program raises a major concern, possibly the biggest roadblock to PSC, or any community college in Florida, having football is the fact that it is banned by the State Board of Education, which oversees all activity on the junior college (or JUCO) level.
Rule 6A-14.058 of the Florida Administrative Code states that “Athletics are authorized student activities, and, if conducted, shall be consistent with the basic purposes of the Florida College System institution. Intercollegiate football shall not be conducted.”
“This law has been on the books for over 30 years and does not allow colleges in the Florida College System to have football teams,” said Jeb Blackburn, Executive Director of the Florida College System Activities Association. “My guess, since (the rule) precedes my tenure, is that the legislature did not want to bear the cost of the state’s 28 programs.”
The cost of starting a program from scratch is steep. After the inclusion of staff salaries, equipment purchases, and other necessary purchases, initial costs can run more than $1million.
“If you add in the cost of 85 scholarships, living stipends and travel expenses, we would more than double our current athletic budget,” said Pensacola State Athletic Director Bill Hamilton. “Then on top of that you have to offset those scholarships with women’s programs, which will double the cost of the start-up.”
Pensacola State has received national recognition for its strict adherence to Title IX, which requires institutions to offer the same opportunity for women’s athletic programs as it does for men. Because of Title IX, adding 85 scholarships for a football program would require the school to add a financial equivalent for either new or existing women’s programs.
While the start-up costs for football are on the extreme high end of the spectrum, the cost of maintaining a program seems to be rather manageable.
“Football (costs) us around $200,000 each year, which takes up about 25 percent of our total athletic budget,” said Dick Speas, Athletic Director for Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. Blinn is currently the No. 2 ranked program in the nation for junior college football.
While the National Junior College Athletic Association allows 85 scholarship players under scholarship for a program, Blinn saves costs by only having 30 players on scholarship. As well as football, Blinn offers the same athletic programs as PSC: baseball and basketball for men; softball, basketball, cheerleading and volleyball for women.
Another issue facing the establishment of a football program at Pensacola State is the fact that the closest junior college competition in football is nearly three hours away — Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, located just outside of Biloxi, Miss., would be the nearest geographical opponent to PSC.
While this area looks at college football as a religion, there definitely seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for junior college football as its’ own denomination. For now, it seems, the devoted followers of college football in the Pensacola area will have to patiently wait to support UWF and their football endeavors.