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Press Release for Friday, July 13, 2007

UNF Athletic Director Focuses on External Support

Contact: Joanna Norris, Assistant Director
Department of Media Relations and Events
(904) 620-2102

As the result of exploding athletic growth on the University of North Florida campus, UNF is gearing up for a fundraising effort that will enhance athletic facilities, create more scholarships for student athletes and increase operational support to allow its Athletic Department to be even more competitive in the recruitment of student athletes.

Over the course of the last decade, the UNF Athletic Department has made outstanding progress in developing one of the nation’s finest young intercollegiate athletic programs. One of the athletic program’s hallmarks in recent years includes embarking on a NCAA divisional reclassification effort from Division II to Division I. The University’s athletics program completed the second year of its four-year transition period into Division I membership. Thirteen of the 15 UNF teams finished in the top six in their sport’s conference standings.

In order for the University’s Athletic Department to reach the goals of facility enhancement, increased scholarships and operational support, UNF Athletic Director Dr. Richard Gropper will be dedicating his efforts to cultivating community donors and athletic program donations.

“I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead as we work to develop the Osprey Sports Complex and other critical needs, such as scholarships and operating funds, to enhance each one of our men’s and women’s sports programs,” said Gropper.

Some of the projects in the works include installing seating for about 10,000 people at Hodges Stadium as well as building a nine-lane, 400-meter competition track, installing TV-quality stadium lighting for evening events and renovating the press box. These stadium enhancements will allow UNF to host outdoor lectures, concerts, graduations and sports/cultural events in addition to boosting the University’s own athletic, fitness and recreational opportunities. A future athletic project includes the construction of a sports performance center, a facility that will be intended to serve both intercollegiate and campus recreation needs.

In order to allow Gropper greater freedom of his time to concentrate on external athletic affairs, the University has hired Dean Billick as the Athletic Chief of Staff. He will have authority over all internal operations of the UNF athletic program and will oversee all budgetary, personnel, competitive and academic areas, including all day-to-day administrative decisions. Gropper will continue to have full oversight responsibility for the entire Athletic Department.

“Our dedicated athletes and students deserve athletic and recreational facilities that will help them hone their skills and talents,” said UNF President John A. Delaney. “Under the leadership of both Gropper and Billick, UNF will continue to develop a strong, competitive athletic program and will continue to develop many memorable Division I moments in UNF athletics history.”

Billick brings more than 40 years of intercollegiate athletics experience at the NCAA Division I level, with service at Lamar University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Cincinnati as well as the United States Olympic Committee. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and began his career in college athletics as sports information director at Bucknell University in 1965.