The University of North Florida has completed its four-year transition to NCAA Division I athletics and two of the school’s new ambassadors came to the Rotary Club of Jacksonville’s meeting Monday to outline their plans for the future.
Lee Moon became UNF’s director of athletics in February after spending five years as senior associate athletics director at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Moon was also director of athletics at the University of Wyoming from 1996-2003 and at Marshall University from 1988-96.
He said he has been on the campaign trail to make people aware that the university is in a position to grow its sports programs.
“I have shaken 800 hands and passed out 800 business cards since I got here. That’s the way we’re getting the word out about who we are and where we’re going,” said Moon.
Several things appealed to him about taking the job at UNF, among them the school’s leadership.
“Athletics starts with the president of any university. John Delaney understands the big picture,” said Moon. “There is also a great academic tradition and UNF’s growth has been unbelievable. Moving to Division I and being successful will be a challenge. We want to grow all of our programs and be as competitive athletically as we are academically.”
One of the things Moon has done is market season tickets for men’s and women’s basketball. In seasons past, he said, “They tried to package single-game tickets but a lot of times they just let people into the games free. They never established the value of basketball.”
Season tickets for 28 men’s and women’s basketball games are offered for $120 or a “Family 4 Pack” for $360. Single-game tickets will be $10 for the 2009-10 season.
After an exhibition game Nov. 5 against Ave Maria University, UNF men’s basketball opens the regular season with a road trip to play Notre Dame. The University of Alabama and Marquette are also on the Ospreys’ road schedule this season.
While he was at Marshall, Moon hired a 28-year old men’s basketball coach named Billy Donovan, who has won two national championships since he has been head coach at the University of Florida.
“I’ve hired some good coaches in my career,” said Moon. “Billy epitomizes all of their good qualities. He never takes a lazy step and he works 24 hours a day to help his players be the best they can be.”
When he introduced UNF’s new head men’s basketball coach, Matthew Driscoll, Moon said Driscoll reminds him of Donovan.
“They are cut from the same cloth. They have the same Christian values and the same energy level,” added Moon.
Driscoll spent the past six seasons as the top assistant coach at Baylor. In 2008 he was voted one of the top 10 assistant coaches in the nation in a survey of coaching professionals conducted by FoxSports.com.
Driscoll said he realizes there will be many challenges involved in developing the program into a Division I contender. The school has had only three winning seasons in 17 years of men’s basketball.
“College athletics is a business,” said Driscoll. “Our job is to win championships and graduate students. We’re going to play an up-tempo game and run up and down the floor. I understand what’s ahead of us. We have a tough schedule but we will be prepared.”
He added one of the marketing challenges facing UNF is establishing an identity for men’s basketball.
“A lot of people don’t understand who we are,” said Driscoll. “We have to create an atmosphere and the product we put on the floor has to match that atmosphere.”