by Cole Pepper
August 15, 2013
It’s not that there has never been anything to play for at JU, but now the Dolphins can set their sights on a national title.
For the first time in the history of the Pioneer Football League, JU and the other schools in the conference will play for the automatic birth in the FCS playoffs. PFL teams were eligible to qualify for the playoffs as an at large team in the past, but “win and you’re in” was not in place for them. Now it is.
“It legitimizes our conference,” said Jacksonville head coach Kerwin Bell. “Now you have a chance like everyone else in the country. I think its going to elevate what we’re doing.”
Players are noticing as well.
“It’s always on your mind,” said senior right tackle Dylan Bostic, who started his college career at FCS powerhouse Appalachian State. “We came back in the spring and had that mentality. We know what we have to do.”
The effect of the automatic bid is far reaching for JU. It should help recruiting and fundraising for the athletic department and making it to the 24-team national tournament would give the school a big boost. Think of it as a mini-Florida Gulf Coast opportunity. FGCU, a team in JU’s conference in basketball, made the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament this past year, prompting a huge increase in donations to the athletic department and applications for admission to the school.
“We have more to play for,” said senior defensive tackle Juan Pimienta. “Our number one goal is to win the conference and that puts us in the national tournament.”
So is it realistic to think that JU could actually make a serious run in the tournament? Bell thinks so.
“At one time (2003), Colgate was a non-scholarship and they got all the way to the championship game,” Bell said. “It’s still an uphill battle, but if we get in it, we’re going to try to shock the world…win the first round and see what happens from there.”