Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Past meets future at Athletics ceremony

Guests sign a football helmet, soccer ball and lacrosse stick to signify the joint use of the new athletics complex. From left are President Wendy Libby, Women’s Soccer Coach Julie Orlowski, student-athlete Carolyn Boyd, mascot John B. (in back), Board Chair Butch Paul and Football Coach Roger Hughes (front right).

A dozen Stetson University football players from the 1940s and ’50s and a young recruit for next year’s return of Hatter Football were special guests at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Athletics Complex being built on the northeast side of campus.

Under beautiful blue skies with the backdrop of a partly-constructed Athletics Field House and four fields, the future of sports at Stetson – and even the university itself – were celebrated Friday afternoon, March 23, before a crowd of student-athletes, coaches, Athletics and other university staff, faculty, trustees, advisory board members, Hatter alumni and company representatives involved with the project.

“Our Strategic Map says that our central focus is to focus innovation to drive Stetson from success to significance. This is one in a series of choices that enables us to grow and prosper and that makes us a successful and significant university,” President Wendy Libby said in her remarks. “This is a real treat to see our dream come true!”

Other speakers included Director of Athletics Jeff Altier, softball player and Student Athlete Advisory Committee President Carolyn Boyd, Head Women’s Soccer Coach Julie Orlowski, Head Football Coach Roger Hughes, DeLand Mayor Robert Apgar and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Harlan “Butch” Paul.

Since construction is already well under way, and to signify the joint use of the new complex by Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Football and Women’s Lacrosse, attendees were invited to sign a lacrosse stick, a football helmet and a soccer ball that will be displayed in the new Field House.
The most touching moments of the occasion involved recognizing the former football players in attendance and taking a photo of the group with new coaches Hughes and Brian Young and a recruit. Hughes shared stories from the old-timers and said recruiting for the first group of football players has far exceeded initial expectations – with 82 players committed so far, with an average GPA of 3.5.

The $6.7 million athletics complex, to include two practice fields for football, a game-day field and separate practice field for soccer and lacrosse, and a Field House with a strength-and-conditioning center to be used by all Stetson athletes, is being built as Stetson brings back football and adds Women’s Lacrosse and Sand Volleyball as intercollegiate sports. The new facilities, along with the relocation of the Intramural Sports playing fields to the Rinker Field in the center of campus, will benefit all student-athletes, Altier said. The complex will open in August.

“This expansion initiative from the start was planned to be and continues to be a ‘win-win’ for the current and future campus community,” Altier said.

Alumni football players from the 1940s and ‘50s pose with football coaches Brian Young and Roger Hughes, kneeling, from left, and mascot John B. The former players standing from left to right are Ed Mason, Tom Allerton, Jim Dreggors, Keith Shamrock, Vic Muzii, Coach Bill Peck, Pete Brainard, Bill Orr, Bob Peck, Bobby Marks and Nick Triantafellu Jr.

The addition of the three sports is key to increasing vibrancy and boosting school spirit as Stetson increases undergraduate enrollment over the next few years. Orlowski thanked Libby and the Board of Trustees for making the vision a reality and said “Women’s sports at this institution are going to get a lot better.”

Representing the students, Boyd said, “We’re excited for the entire Athletic Department to grow. We hope this will bring more school spirit.”

Mayor Apgar commented on the additional staff Stetson will hire to support the programs and the partnership between the city of DeLand and the university to play football games at Spec Martin Stadium. Home games will attract alumni and other people to DeLand. “It’s a huge economic addition to our community,” he said.

“The excitement here on campus is nice to see. But it’s not just on campus – it’s in the community and with our alumni,” added Board Chairman Paul.

The ceremonial groundbreaking brought some light moments, too. President Libby noted that it will be nice to have real bathrooms – rather than portable ones – for soccer games now. And Paul reminded the audience of last fall’s various “Tailgating 101” classes at alumni events across the country. He attended one in Miami.

“We are prepared to tailgate,” Paul said. “We’ve learned how to do it, and we’re looking forward to doing it here in DeLand!”

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