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Stetson University Football

Stetson University President Wendy B. Libby announces the return of Stetson football. The March 14 news conference took place at DeLand City Hall after a special meeting of the DeLand City Commission.

Hatter Football to take the field in fall 2013

Get ready for the return of Hatter Football!

Stetson University has joined the prestigious Pioneer Football League, has hired former Princeton head coach Roger Hughes, and is scheduled to play its first football game in fall 2013. Long ago considered a pigskin powerhouse in Florida, Stetson has not had a football team since the 1956 season.

A new NCAA Division I program in Women's Lacrosse, which has become wildly popular since it started a year ago as a club sport at Stetson, will also be added at the same time.

The university currently has 15 intercollegiate sports, with most of those played in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Following approval by the Stetson University Board of Trustees in February, the next formal step toward a new football program was to establish a partnership with the City of DeLand for shared use of Spec Martin Football Stadium at Earl Brown Park.

The DeLand City Commission approved that partnership in a special meeting on March 14, 2011. The agreement calls for the city to finance capital improvement needs for the stadium in return for an annual rental fee from Stetson and an agreement to share revenue from sponsorships and advertising, as well as a commission on concessions and parking. Stetson has a similar agreement with the city for use of Melching Field at Conrad Park for baseball.

1894-1895 Stetson football team"We are thrilled to work together with the city on the prospect of re-introducing Hatter Football," said Stetson President Wendy B. Libby. "The city and Stetson have been bound together since the late 1800s, and our health and vitality go hand-in-hand."

Stetson's interest in beginning a non-scholarship football program began in the fall of 2009 with the reports of a number of on-campus committees suggesting that such a program along with NCAA Division I

Women's Lacrosse would:

  • Help meet Stetson's strategic goal of enrolling 3,000 DeLand campus undergraduates by 2016;
  • Allow the university to join the prestigious Pioneer Football League;
  • Help Stetson attract students from outside Florida;
  • Make the campus environment more vibrant;
  • Increase the number of students staying on campus over weekends and contributing to life on campus and elsewhere in the City of DeLand;
  • Strengthen Stetson's ability to attract and retain students; and
  • Enhance alumni engagement.

Increasing enrollment and retention would help strengthen finances at the DeLand campus of the university and provide funds to be invested in support of Stetson's highest strategic priorities, Stetson officials said. Several strategies have already begun, including dramatic improvements in classrooms and landscaping that got under way in 2010. In addition, a new Student Success Center to increase retention opened in fall 2010; that same fall, the university's recruitment and financial aid strategies were revamped in ways that anticipate an increase of approximately10 percent in the entering class for fall 2011.

Much work went into exploring the feasibility and costs of re-introducing football. After a study by NACDA Consulting, Stetson staff worked to assure that the pro forma's estimated revenues were financially conservative and that the expenses fully stated the cost of the programs. Based on those numbers, Stetson anticipates a significant revenue stream that would be devoted to the university's highest priorities.

One goal of a renewed Stetson football program was to join the well-respected Pioneer League. League officials had made it known that they enthusiastically looked forward to receiving Stetson's application. The Pioneer League President's Group met June 13, 2011 and voted to accept both Stetson University and Mercer University as the newest members of the NCAA Division I non-scholarship football league.

The Pioneer Football League is comprised almost entirely of private universities that play at the NCAA Division I level in their other sports competitions. The league also includes: Butler University, Campbell University, Davidson College, University of Dayton, Drake University, Jacksonville University, Marist College, Morehead State University, University of San Diego and Valparaiso University. Football players in the league do not receive athletic scholarships, but are eligible for the types of academic scholarships awarded to most Stetson students.

"The other institutions within the Pioneer League are similar to Stetson in size, academic rigor and integrity," said Stetson Director of Athletics Jeff Altier. "Joining the league creates a continuation of athletic rivalries with schools such as Jacksonville, Mercer and Campbell, all of which are currently fellow members of the Atlantic Sun Conference."

On June 27, 2011, Altier announced that Hughes had been named head coach of the Stetson University football team. Hughes becomes the ninth head football coach in the history of the program that ran from 1894 through 1956. He was selected from a pool of more than 160 applicants. Hughes has 27 years of experience coaching at all levels of the NCAA including 10 seasons as head coach at Princeton University, from 2000-2009.

Bringing football back to Stetson ends a decades-long hiatus of a program that was tremendously successful in its early days.

"We are excited to see football return to Stetson after a 57-year hiatus," Altier said. "We believe it will generate excitement on campus, as well as among alumni and the community of DeLand."

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The 1904 Stetson football team sits on the steps of Elizabeth Hall with an alligator mascot. Jack Sams was manager and Litchfield Colton was the coach. Pictured are: Jack Sams, Loring Mace, Carney Wilder, Sidney Lenfesty, Fred Botts, Edward Mickle, Silas B. Wright Jr., G.C. Staley, Harry Duncan, Thomas McIlvain Shannon, Charles Campbell, Arthur Underhill Pounds, Lawrence Botts Bradwell, Litchfield Colton. Download a short history of Stetson football.

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