State Colleges

FIU’s Butch Davis is all for St. Thomas and Florida Memorial adding football. Here’s why

Florida Memorial University coach Tim ‘Ice’ Harris.
Florida Memorial University coach Tim ‘Ice’ Harris.

St. Thomas University, an NAIA program, is set to play the inaugural game of its newborn football program Sept. 7 against visiting Thomas More.

Florida Memorial, also an NAIA school, will play football next year, which will mark the program’s first season since the sport was dropped in 1958.

Meanwhile, over at Division I FIU, Panthers coach Butch Davis said he’s thrilled to see football continuing to grow in South Florida, a trend that also includes ASA Miami adding the sport as a junior-college entry in 2015.

“So many kids in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and even out to Naples and Fort Myers get overlooked or don’t develop until the latter part of their senior seasons,” Davis said. “This will give some of those kids the opportunity to play football at the next level while getting a college education.”

Davis has a bit of a personal connection to Tim “Ice” Harris, the new coach at Florida Memorial. Two of Harris’ sons are on Davis’ staff. Tim Jr. is FIU’s running backs coach, and Brandon is a graduate assistant helping with the defensive backs.

“Tim Harris Sr. is a great coach and teacher,” Davis said. “His history of success in the high school ranks is as good as it’s ever been in South Florida [three state titles].

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to him since he was hired [on Aug. 12], but I can understand him wanting a chance to coach his own program in college. I think he wants that challenge, and I wish him the best.

“We’re fortunate to have his two sons with us. They are terrific teachers, and they do everything with class and integrity.”

Once next season rolls around, Florida Memorial and St. Thomas will be natural rivals on the football field, and Harris Sr. told the Herald he believes their annual game should be held somewhere special such as Marlins Park or Hard Rock Stadium.

“I think it’s awesome,” St. Thomas coach Bill Rychel said when asked about Florida Memorial adding football. “I’m a football junkie. I love it when any football team is added.

“Florida Memorial for us will create a natural rival. I’m excited that they will be in our [Mid South Football] conference.”

THIS AND THAT

Ice Harris has already hired one FMU assistant coach — Benedict Hyppolite, who will serve as offensive coordinator. Hyppolite was previously the head coach at Carol City High.

FMU will practice and play in Miami Gardens at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex, with hopes of an on-campus facility being built in the future.

NSU last week announced five people as part of their 12th Hall of Fame class, including St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas, who last year made the MLB All-Star Game; and coach John Gartin, who started the women’s rowing program at the school.

Also in the class are Erin Black, who was NSU’s first national champion in women’s swimming; Oskar Nordstrand, NSU’s first national champ in men’s swimming; and Taylor Collins, who won three national team titles and one national individual title in women’s golf.

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