Finlandia University is looking for a new head football coach. The search is the latest step toward forming an NCAA Division III football program at the University. Expanding Finlandia’s athletic arsenal is also an integral component of it’s 7-year Strategic Plan, which will unveil seven new D-III sports program over the next seven years. The new hire will also serve as a larger commitment to secure affiliation in an established NCAA Division III athletics conference.
Finlandia’s administration believes general affiliation in an established athletics conference is vital to the school’s ability to offer the academic and athletic benefits its student-athletes deserve. Finlandia Athletic Director Chris Salani says a window of opportunity may be opening in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.
“As we’ve worked with the UMAC Conference Officers over the last several years in efforts to gain general conference affiliation, the Conference more recently has identified their own strategic plans which will allow Finlandia to strategically align our new sport offerings to that of the Conference’s membership criterion. Our long term planning and now execution of, and in concert with the UMAC’s growth model, presents the perfect opportunity for us to become a viable member of the regional conference.”
The new plan calls for Finlandia to achieve historic levels of matriculation, growing the overall student body by at least 40 percent by 2021. Officials believe that strengthening Finlandia’s 13 current NCAA Division III programs, alongside 7 new ones, will bring in no fewer than 217 new students.
“I am convinced that growing our NCAA Division III programs reaps benefits for all our students, our entire Campus community. It is good for all of Finlandia. It is good for the Copper Country. It is good for the Upper Peninsula. So let’s do some good,” Finlandia President Philip Johnson stated.
Applications are currently being accepted for the head football coach position, with a preference given to those received by March 24th. Finlandia hopes to make the new hire by mid-April. The first year of football at Finlandia will include the development of the structural and operating elements of the program, its first two official recruiting classes, and a spring practice in 2015. With a roster target of 70 by the fall of 2015, the Lions will begin Varsity competition.
“We’re excited,” stated Salani. “This has been our goal since the first Phase of development began with McAfee Field. And now, in Phase II, we are seeing all of our efforts and planning come to fruition.”
Finlandia will absorb the projected growth by expanding and enhancing facilities on two existing properties: the 11-acre Finlandia Athletics Complex, and the Paavo Nurmi Physical Education building. In 2009, Finlandia, the City of Hancock, and Hancock Public Schools came together and secured property from HPS in exchange for 12 years of tuition remission for graduates from Hancock Central High School. The $4,200,000 investment aimed to provide greater access to private higher education for Upper Peninsula families. Now in its fifth year, the program has impacted more than sixty families and their students.