PENSACOLA, Fla. — West Florida President Judy Bense has waited five years, four months and 32 days to land a football coach that fit her program’s needs in its inaugural season.
“But who’s counting,” Bense said Thursday, unable to contain her excitement before introducing Pete Shinnick as the Argonauts’ first head coach.
“What we want to do here is the same thing I’ve been able to do the last 15 years as a head coach, and that’s be mentors for the young men who come and be a part of this program,” Shinnick said on his first official day away from UNCP, a program he’s called home since 2005. “I can’t think of a better place to bring someone than Pensacola, Florida. This is an amazing situation to start football in.”
A Division II mainstay with 25 years of sideline experience and a 103-48 record as a head coach, Shinnick resurrected UNCP’s program after a 50-year absence and pushed the Braves to a pair of playoff berths. His first head job came in 1999 at Azusa Pacific following a decade as an FBS and DII-level assistant.
Bense says the addition of football at West Florida, an institution that boasts seven national championships, will bring increased exposure to all Argonauts sports in the Gulf South Conference. Shinnick becomes the new public face of a college athletic department, an opportunity he mastered in Pembroke.
“I am happy that our athletic department will experience a boost,” Bense said. “We have experienced unprecedented success already. We are a strong athletic university, and we are getting stronger.”
West Florida athletic director Dave Scott stressed the importance of selecting a candidate that could build a team, put academics first and graduate players.
“When we were looking through the process (at West Florida), we talked about building champions for life,” Scott said. “It was important for us to select an individual that we felt fit into our family. We had no shortage of candidates and no shortage of interest. The University of West Florida’s a special place.”
Shinnick arrives with optimism in the thick of a recruiting hotbed, one of the selling points that led to his resignation at UNCP. West Florida’s one of only two DII programs in the Sunshine State, an area that annually produces the second-most college football players in the country.
Shinnick and the Argonauts will have their pick of the post-DI litter and have the option of peering into border states for additional talent during the recruiting season.
“What I want to be able to do is recruit young men to this university who are going to represent this university in a great way,” Shinnick said. “As I’ve talked to different people who have started programs, you’ve got one chance I believe to make a great first impression. I’m really looking forward to learning from the coaches here and what they have done to recruit their athletes to this institution.”
The search for a staff begins now for Shinnick and several current UNCP coaches will be in the picture. West Florida’s first signing class will arrive next spring with kick-off set for 2016.
Football is West Florida’s 15th varsity sport.
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.