By Andrea Starr
Starting in the Fall 2014 semester, Finlandia University will finally welcome the first of the young men who will form our football program.
According to Athletic Director, Chris Salani, the first stage of this strategic plan will allow a small cohort of these new athletes to arrive in the fall semester. An additional group of players will arrive in the Spring 2015 semester, allowing the team to gain an understanding of academic expectations at the college level as well as acclimating them to the leadership styles of their new coaching staff before officially competing against other teams. Finlandia’s football team will practice in a nontraditional off-season beginning in the spring of 2015, and starting in the fall of 2015, they will open in a traditional season against Alma College.
With this new program, not only will new students be arriving on campus (about 70-100 men total), but also many new staff members as well. “The program will have a total of five coaches,” said Salani. “Once the head coach is hired, he will begin not only recruiting [players] for the program, but he also will be beginning to hire his staff – the four members underneath him.”
Finlandia is currently in the process of hiring a head coach for this football program, and hopes to offer one of the final applicants this coaching position within a week or so. The finalist candidates for the position are Tim Driscol, Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator for Michigan Technological University, and Dr. Jan Quarless, Superintendent of Schools at Dollar Bay.
Salani said both candidates have extensive backgrounds in coaching at the college level and are very familiar with the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan regions, two essential qualifications Finlandia is looking for in a head coach. Finlandia is not only looking for someone who has experience running a college football program, but also someone who is patient, and knows what it is to be a program builder since this is a new development for our university.
The football program is only the first phase of the plans for improvement and advancement for Finlandia. In addition to bringing in a football team, Finlandia plans to implement men’s and women’s tennis, Nordic skiing, lacrosse, men’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball over the course of the next few years.
Complementary to the advancement of Finlandia’s athletic department, renovations to the Paavo Nurmi facilities are also set to begin immediately following the end of this semester. These renovations will include a complete refurbishment of the former pool, transforming that space into the new fitness center and weight room for campus and community use. The current weight room will be used as a multipurpose room for classes and activities such as yoga
and Pilates, and all of the locker rooms will be renovated and expanded. These developments athletically play a part in the greater campus plan, in that Finlandia has plans to build an additional dorm space to house these new student-athletes.
“I’m extremely optimistic,” said Salani. “This is going to help provide an identity for the college.” The athletic developments help show who Finlandia is and what goals we are working toward every day, he said. Salani expressed his concern that the area in which Finlandia is located leaves students concerned with the lack of activities, but rebutted these concerns by explaining that these improvements that are in the works will allow Finlandia to “provide that student life experience, that family student life experience.” He believes this step is a huge benefit to our college, allowing us to develop programming for future Homecomings, unite our university around a common goal and identity, and incorporate the community into who we are from as student life perspective.