Go you Northwestern

I have never met Morton Schapiro, but I like the guy. 

His opening letter "From the President" in the Fall 2013 edition of the Northwestern University alumni magazine is titled, "Building on Success." 

Schapiro is the president of my 162-year-old alma mater and is now in his fourth year at the helm. His letter is full of braggy things about how awesome the university is, which is of course, all true. 

The way we balance being a research institution and a teaching university. The fact that enrollment -- at about 8,000 undergrads and the same number of graduate and professional students, he writes -- means we can still offer small class sizes and an intimate teaching experience and support outstanding programs at the upper echelons. 

The way we have stood by a commitment to use financial aid resources to make sure that every student who meets the academic criteria for admission has the chance to attend. 

The way we keep football in its proper place. 

It is that last part that I hope University of West Florida President Judy Bense and her team keep in mind as they embark on their ambitious plans to bring Division II football to UWF starting in 2016. 

 "I understand clearly that for many of you Northwestern athletics was not a major part of your experience here. And I assure you that as a university president I am well aware of the problems and pitfalls that exist in college athletics," Schaprio writes.

The kids at NU today do not know the pain of suffering yet another loss in the October or November chill at Dyche Stadium, but brothers and sisters, I do. 

The first thing we learned from upperclassmen at games in the early 1990s was the cheer, "that's all right, that's OK, you're gonna work for us someday" when we lost.   

Which was often. 

But I do have fond memories of those games, even the rainy, cold and windy ones. And when a win did come, baby there was no better way to dissipate the chill of a Midwest winter Saturday.

The turnaround began after I graduated in 1994. And I am pleased to see that as Wildcat football has grown, it has not come at the expense of the real reason those young men are in college. 

To be educated. 

President Schapiro writes that we are third in the NCAA in our Academic Progress rate. Go you, Northwestern, indeed. 

UWF is not Northwestern. 

It has labored for years under the image of "the university in the woods off Nine Mile Road," barely acknowledged by locals or officials in Tallahassee in many cases. 

But over the years -- particularly under Bense's tenure -- UWF has grown. 

Grown its profile, grown its campus, grown its student body. Bense has long seen a football program as integral to UWF's evolution in providing a full, rich student life experience. 

She promises that student fees won't be hiked to pay for football, that resources won't be taken from other sports to cover football's price tag.  

I hope those promises stick.  

This is a chance to prove all of those kevetchers and complainers who have called UWF podunk or small time because it isn't a "real" college wrong.    

It is a chance for the alumni of UWF to stand up and be counted by supporting the effort to bring the program to life.  

It is also a chance for this community to wake up and fully embrace UWF as its own. As the engine of economic growth and the creator of intellectual capital that institutions of higher education bring to other communities across this country. 

If we want the next generation to see Penacola's promise and decide that it is a good place to put down roots, raise a family, pay some taxes and live a life, we need UWF to thrive.

Whether or not they win on gridiron.