Alongside larger players like the Rays and the Rowdies, USF St. Petersburg hopes to introduce a sports team it can call its own.
After years of circulating rumors of future intercollegiate sports on campus, it seems that the university is finally ready to commit, according to Vice Chancellor Dr. Patricia Helton.
Beginning this year, the university will begin searching for a consulting firm to help university administrators decide on the right sports programs to invest in.
The firm will likely create focus groups and conduct surveys to better understand the kinds of sports students and faculty would like to see. They will also calculate how much an intercollegiate sports program would cost the university.
According to Helton, some of the most popular sports choices are men and women’s soccer, tennis, golf and volleyball.
USF St. Petersburg’s only intercollegiate sport is the sailing team, which is a member of the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association. However, the university has a number of intramural sports including dodgeball, volleyball and kickball.
Once the university decides on the sports it wants, it needs to decide where it wants to compete.
St. Petersburg is interested in competing in either division one or two of the NCAA or NAIA.
A big factor in moving forward with the plan came after Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska spoke with Student Government, who offered enthusiastic support.
But for students hoping to compete in or attend future games, it might be premature to count on sports coming to USFSP soon. It will take many years for the plan to come to fruition.
“Before we begin, we need to look at the cost and how quickly or slowly we want to move on it,” Helton said.
Helton hopes that by allowing St. Petersburg to compete with similar residential campuses that already have intercollegiate programs, it will help bring the campus’s six-year graduation rate up from 38 percent.
“A lot of residential campuses do have intercollegiate programs and if we are competing with these other schools, we want to offer a program that will give them school pride,” Helton said.
Funding for future sports programs may come from student tuition, and will most likely increase the athletic fee from $34.40 for a full-time student taking 12 credit hours. Part of St. Petersburg’s athletic fee goes to fund USF Tampa’s intercollegiate sports program.