"Stetson University is proud to join the prestigious Pioneer Football League as we re-introduce Hatter Football in 2013," said Stetson President Wendy B. Libby. "The other colleges and universities in the Pioneer League are similar to Stetson in academic excellence, values and enrollment, and we believe we will be a good fit for the league, both on and off the field."
Fifty-five years after ending its football program, Stetson University made the decision to reinstate the sport and begin play in 2013. Approximately a year ago, Stetson began examining the economic feasibility of adding football, as well as women's lacrosse, and determined the commitment would help the university boost enrollment and retention and gain national name recognition.
"Stetson already has a very strong athletics program, and football will be a great addition," said Harlan L. "Butch" Paul, chairman of the Stetson Board of Trustees. "Bringing back football fits well into the university's new strategic goals to increase undergraduate enrollment, attract a more geographically diverse student population and increase the vibrancy of the campus for our students, while maintaining Stetson's high academic qualities and standards. It will also increase community and alumni engagement. The Board of Trustees is proud of Stetson's acceptance into the prestigious Division I Pioneer Football League."
Following approval by the Board of Trustees in February, Stetson made a proposal to the City of DeLand for shared use of Spec Martin Football Stadium at Earl Brown Park in downtown DeLand. The DeLand City Commission met March 14 to consider the partnership with Stetson and the needed improvements to the stadium complex. The proposal was approved unanimously, and football was reborn at Stetson.
The next step was for Stetson to make application for acceptance into the Pioneer Football League. The Pioneer Football League is the nation's only non-scholarship, football-only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision conference. The other schools in the league include Butler, Campbell, Davidson, Dayton, Drake, Jacksonville, Marist, Morehead State, San Diego and Valparaiso. The addition of Stetson and Mercer bring the total number of schools to 12.
"The PFL, a national conference made up of schools that are very similar to Stetson University in size, and academic rigor has from my perspective always appeared to be a perfect fit for us," said Stetson Director of Athletics Jeff Altier. "I am pleased that the members of the Pioneer Football League agree and, as such, have extended a membership opportunity."
"This is a very exciting time for Stetson University, not just because we are adding the intercollegiate sports of football, sand volleyball and women's lacrosse, but because the plan to grow the student population and enhance campus vibrancy is coming together as we had planned," he added.
After the addition of football was formally approved and application was made to join the PFL, Stetson began its search for the next head football coach.
"The search for a head football coach is winding down," said Altier. "The pool of 160 applicants has been narrowed down to three. These three candidates have been on campus over the past week for in-person interviews. The search committee has done an outstanding job, and any of the top three candidates will be a welcome addition to Stetson University. Our plans are to finish the background checks this week and offer the position to the top candidate early next week, and shortly thereafter conduct a press conference to announce the new coach."
Following the hiring of a new coach the remaining Stetson football program timeline will include recruitment of prospective student athletes beginning this fall, hiring an offensive or defensive coordinator, and beginning facility construction over the winter, hiring assistant coaches and support staff, and beginning a practice year in the summer of 2012, and then joining the PFL regular schedule in the fall of 2013.