ST. LEO, Florida (January 20, 2019) – On Thursday, Jan 10 and Friday, Jan 11, Saint Leo University held a series of focus groups to begin the process of bringing a football program back to the school. This is the latest step by University President Jeffrey Senese to grow Saint Leo’s attendance. These focus groups are not a guarantee that the school will bring a football program, but are more set as a groundwork to test the feasibility of re-fielding a team.
The focus groups were led by Russell Wright, the managing director of Collegiate Consulting, an Atlanta-based consulting firm dedicated to helping universities expand their athletic departments. They have had success in the past, having worked with the University of West Florida to establish their football program in 2016, a program that finished as Division II national runners-up in 2017. Collegiate Consulting also assisted Stetson University with the start of their program, which started in 2013. In addition, the company has also successfully worked with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida A&M University, to name a few of its Florida clients.
This would be a return of football to Saint Leo, as the school once had a football program, dating as far back as 1945.
This feasibility includes some expected challenges, such as the cost of staffing and the expenses that come with updating and improving the infrastructure for the team, as well as gauging the interest level the student and faculty have in the team’s existence.
Walking around campus seems to answer the interest level. Discussing the idea with a number of students, the interest has been overwhelmingly positive. One student, a junior Psychology major, views a football program as a good way to expand the visibility of the school, while another student, a freshman English major from Brooksville, spoke on the excitement he had, noting his initial disappointment that the school did not already have a football program in existence.
The feasibility also brings some unique difficulties as well. Saint Leo currently plays in the Sunshine State Conference, which has no football programs at this time. One option would be to move to the Gulf South Conference, where the Lions would be able to face teams. However, Wright noted that this would only be a short-term solution, although there are two Florida football-playing institutions in the GSC, the University of West Florida and Florida Institute of Technology.The remainder of the conference is based in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee.