Barry Fagan has spent most of his life well north of Florida, but he is getting to know the Sunshine State better than most natives. Within just a few weeks of being hired to start the Ave Maria University football program, Coach Fagan has been to Cocoa Beach, Cape Coral, Tampa, Lake Wales, West Palm Beach, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Coral Springs – attending recruiting fairs to find the nucleus of the school’s first team.
“Ave Maria hired me just before the recruiting fairs were starting, so I had no time to waste,” he said. “I spoke to 300 coaches in three weeks.”
With few Florida schools below Division One offering a football program, there are lots of young men who want to play football and stay hear their homes in Florida, he said.
But everyone isn’t a fit for AMU, he added.
“I only am seeing kids with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 and a minimum ACT score of 22,” he said. “It’s important when recruiting that it’s a fit academically, socially, athletically and, here at Ave Maria, spiritually. You don’t bring in players who can’t handle the academics.”
“The number -one priority is to earn a degree and represent the school in a first-class manner everywhere.”
Coach Fagan came to Ave Maria from Hillsdale College in Michigan where, he said, it was “proven you don’t have to compromise on intellect, character or spirituality” when building a football team. The team at Hillsdale, he added, has the highest level of academic achievement of all NCAA Division II teams.