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UT task force supportive of women's sports

Neither a resurrection of football nor a move to Division I status are on the drawing board at the University of Tampa, but a report of a yearlong study of the school's athletic program recommends dozens of changes, including a larger commitment to women's sports. The task force report, commissioned by UT president Bruce Samson last September and released Friday, examined everything from the academic performance of student-athletes to intramurals. The task force included UT students, faculty and administrators.

Answers to a number of lingering questions surrounding the athletic program are provided in the report, but many issues remain clouded.

"I expected it to be more strongly worded," said Chris Catanach, UT's volleyball coach and former assistant athletic director. Catanach served on a task force subcommittee. "I like what they want to do academically in the sense that they want to recruit better student-athletes."

Catanach added that the report does not specifically spell out the university's commitment to intercollegiate athletics and said parts of it reflect a "Division III mentality."

"Everyone on my committee said Tampa should be competitive at the highest level, and nowhere in there does it say that," Catanach said.

While recognizing the 42-year tradition of UT football that ended in 1974, the task force said it feels the issues of divisional status and increasing support for women's sports should be resolved before any serious consideration of the return of football.

"There's nothing startling about it. It seems very much a status quo report," said T. Terrell Sessums, a Tampa attorney who serves on the university's board of trustees.

"There is a lot the university could do to improve the quality of its Division II programs," Sessums said. "Then it can go back and decide whether it wants to elevate basketball to Division I or bring back football. I think that's a few years away, though."

A divisional status change is unlikely, if the task force recommendations are followed.

The task force looked at other colleges similar to Tampa and concluded that a competitiveness would decline if the school moved to an NCAA Division III or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics affiliation. Yet while it acknowledged the advantages of a move up to Division I, the task force advised against it because "such a move would require resources not currently available to the university."

Athletic director Bill Wall was in Tulsa, Okla., Friday for his daughter's wedding and could not be reached for comment, but he has already begun to enact some of the recommendations.

Last month, Wall announced a restructuring that included the elimination of full-time assistant coaches in the school's two flagship sports, men's basketball and baseball, as well as the addition of a full-time assistant in women's basketball and salary increases for coaches in the minor sports.

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