It’s a time for new beginnings in Georgetown. After a 63 year absence, football is back at Southwestern University.
But the drive to return the Pirates to the gridiron was actually pretty academic. The move is seen as helping the entire university.
"We're doing all this work, and we have these new fields," said Marin Bramblett, a SWU senior from Ohio who was working at the Pirates fieldhouse. "There's a change in campus and it's something we can all be a part of."
This fall Southwestern is one of 11 colleges across the country reinstating football, or forming a team for the very first time.
Two years ago 63 percent of students at Southwestern were women. Alarmed by the disparity, university officials looked for ways to get more men enrolled. Fielding a 96 man football team definitely helps the numbers.
"Football in Texas in the fall is just something you do,” said Dave Voskuil, SWU Vice President for Enrollment Services. “That didn’t hurt Southwestern, per se, but you can tell there's a difference."
Out of the more than 1,500 students enrolled this fall, 47 percent are men. That’s the highest percentage in years. Ironically in the early years of its existence, Southwestern only admitted men.
Today both men and women on campus say adding the NCAA Division 3 football program is significant.
"The change from last year to this year is huge,” said running back Dylan Wilburn, one of the few sophomores on the team that is overwhelmingly populated by freshman players. “There are so many more guys on campus, and so much more is going on this year."
SWU is part of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, which includes other small liberal arts colleges in Texas.
Dr. Glada Munt, SWU’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, says the idea of bringing back football has been talked about for the past 20 years. The university got serious about the idea in the last three and a half years.
With almost 1,400 season tickets being sold, the excitement about the return of college football to Georgetown is palpable.
"I was never expecting the city of Georgetown to embrace us. The relationship has been fabulous," said Munt.
Saturday night at 7 o’clock the new chapter in Pirate Football begins at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown. It will be the second meeting between the Pirates and Texas Lutheran University out of Seguin. At their last meeting in 1940 Southwestern beat TLU 27-9.
Both schools are hoping for a big crowd. There's plenty of free parking and fans will be tailgating. Tickets are $8.
As the stadium fills Saturday, team members know the pressure will be on. Freshman quarterback Dante Smith echoes the sentiments of many on his squad.
"It's a little nerve-wracking," he said. "We're all willing to start this thing up and do it right and give 100 percent effort."
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