Shinnick named AFCA coach of the year

By William Rasmussen
Sports writer

University of West Florida head football coach Pete Shinnick capped off a historic 2017 season, taking home the 2018 American Football Coaches’ Association Coach of the Year Award for NCAA Division II at the AFCA Coaches Awards in Charlotte, North Carolina, Tuesday night.

Other Division II nominees included Shippensburg’s Mark Maciejewski, Ashland’s Lee Owens, Midwestern State’s Bill Maskill and Winona State’s Tom Sawyer. Shinnick was one of two Florida coaches to take home an award, as former UCF coach Scott Frost claimed FBS Coach of the Year.

“I’m very blessed and honored to receive this honor,” Shinnick said. “This is a tremendous award for the University of West Florida for all they have done to get us to this place. I’m just the lucky guy who gets to win this honor.”

Pete Shinnick, Argos head football coach (Photo special to The Voyager)

Shinnick led the Argonauts (11-4) to the Division II National Championship game in the program’s second year of competition. The Argos fell in the National Title to Texas A&M Commerce 37-27 in Kansas City on Dec. 16.

Under Shinnick’s direction, UWF became the fastest program to qualify for the Division II playoffs. The Argos finished the 2017 season tied for second place in the elite Gulf South Conference, which is often referred to by its fans as Division II’s answer to the Southeastern Conference.

West Florida won six straight games en route to the championship game. Five of those wins came against ranked opponents, a school record, according to UWF sports information.

The Argonauts became quite the Cinderella story towards the end of 2017, defeating nationally prominent Division II programs Wingate, West Georgia, West Alabama and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The Argos finished the season ranked second in the AFCA Top 25.

With the accolade, Shinnick becomes the ninth coach in UWF history to win a national coach of the year award. Women’s soccer coach Joe Bartilinski, men’s golf coach Steve Fell, baseball coach Mike Jeffcoat, diving coach Barbara Parker, men’s and women’s tennis coach Derrick Racine, softball coaches Tami Cyr and Doug Palmer, and former tennis coach Ralph Carson are all a part of the special club at UWF.

The future is bright for a talented and now experienced UWF football team. The Argos exceeded expectations in year two of the program and return almost every starter from a defense that finished the year as the 20th best in the nation. UWF was among the top 20 in sacks, turnovers gained, interceptions, fumbles recovered, fourth down defense and defensive touchdowns.

Shinnick and company will have some unfinished business to take care of in 2018. That will all begin Feb. 7, as National Signing Day is on the horizon. Fans will have their first look at the Argos before spring ball, as they will headline the Pensacola Grand Mardi Gras Parade on Feb. 10 as grand marshals.