PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Arizona Christian University President Len Munsil announced today that ACU will begin an NAIA intercollegiate football program next year, with Firestorm football making its debut in the fall of 2014.
"We could not be more thrilled to begin the only non-Division 1, four-year college football program in Arizona," said Munsil. "Thousands of young men play high school football in Arizona, but only a few can play for one of our three major universities. Each year, hundreds of Arizona players go out of state to play small college football. We are excited to be able to provide an opportunity for many of these student athletes to continue their career in front of family and friends."
Arizona Christian will immediately undertake a national search for the program's first coach.
"ACU is a fully accredited, degree-granting institution with a distinct Christian purpose," Munsil said. "As an institution, we are committed to educating and equipping the next generation of Christian leaders. So we seek a coach who can recruit and lead student athletes to be successful not only on the field and in the classroom, but also in their spiritual life."
Junior college and large high school stadiums will be considered for home games during the 2014 season, with Arizona Christian pursuing a more permanent home in future years.
Arizona Christian University competes in 15 sports as a member of the Golden State Athletics Conference, a non-football playing conference. It likely will compete as an NAIA Independent, but also will explore football-only conference alignments.
ACU's athletic department has secured preliminary commitments that will enable the Firestorm to play a complete schedule of games in 2014, and to be eligible for the national playoffs. ACU's first football schedule will be released in the next few weeks.
The NAIA has a 16-team national football playoff with teams determined by conference championships and national ranking. The national championship game is held each year in Rome, Georgia, and televised live across America on the CBS Sports Network in mid-December.
Arizona Christian expects to recruit at least 65 student athletes for its first varsity team, and will have sizable athletic scholarships available for high-achieving students and athletes. Students who transfer to Arizona Christian in January will have the opportunity to get a head start by participating in spring football drills in front of the new coaching staff.
Recent athletic success at Arizona Christian include a nationally televised conference championship game, followed by an at-large bid to the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City for the 2012-13 men's basketball team. The men's baseball program, only three years old, has produced a conference championship, an appearance in the NCCAA College World Series, and five players drafted by Major League Baseball. In addition to men's basketball and baseball, the men's cross country and women's tennis teams have received votes in NAIA national polls.