PEMBROKE — Pete Shinnick, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s face of football since its infancy, is heading south to lead another start-up program beginning play in 2016.
The University of West Florida, a Division II member of the Gulf South Conference, announced Shinnick’s arrival Friday afternoon, capping a strenuous search for the Argonauts’ first football coach.
West Florida athletic director Dave Scott confirmed the hire.
“Pete checked off all the boxes for qualities we were looking for in a candidate,” Scott said in a release. “I don’t think we could have found a better person and coach to fill this position. We’re fortunate to have found a coach that has done this all before. It’s one thing to be a great coach, but it’s another to have started a program from scratch. It’s truly a unique skill.”
Shinnick declined comment on the move and said he will wait until West Florida’s introductory press conference on Feb. 6. He acknowledged his abrupt resignation at UNCP six days before National Signing Day through a university release.
“After eight great years at UNCP, it’s with excitement and sadness that I announce my resignation to build a new program at the University of West Florida,” Shinnick said. “I want to give a special thanks to Dan Kenney and Allen Meadors for hiring me in 2005 and giving me this wonderful opportunity.”
Defensive coordinator Shane Richardson will serve as the Braves’ interim coach.
Dick Christy, UNCP’s director of athletics, says he is thankful for the ascension the school’s football program made during the short time he has worked alongside Shinnick.
“It has been a privilege to work with Pete Shinnick,” Christy said. “He built the brand of Braves Football and has positioned us in an outstanding way for the future. UNCP Athletics would like to wish Traci and the entire Shinnick family heartfelt congratulations on this new opportunity.”
Christy doesn’t expect Shinnick’s resignation to affect UNCP’s incoming recruiting class.
“We’re going to continue with our signing day as scheduled,” he said. “All of our assistant coaches are working this weekend and letting athletes know that all scholarship offers will be honored. Our model and how we’ve built this program and what we’ve told these kids will not change.”
The Braves became nationally relevant as an independent under Shinnick, going 50-24 in seven seasons with two playoff appearances. This season, UNCP lost in the second round of the postseason and climbed to as high as No. 8 in the American Football Coaches Association poll.
Shinnick inherits a similar situation to what he found in Pembroke after leaving Azusa Pacific in 2005 — a program with opportunity and a clean slate. West Florida, located in Pensacola, find football as a necessity, incorporating it as their 15th varsity sport.
“Adding football at West Florida is long overdue,” said West Florida President Judy Bense. “It will bring new excitement and vibrancy to our campus and community. Shinnick is the right man for the job. He is a demonstrated leader and has built a winning team from scratch. I am pleased he will join us at North Florida and carry forward our vision.”
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.