POSTED: Thursday, August 27, 2009 - 6:04pm
UPDATED: Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 3:15am
The program had laid dormant since 1940
JACKSONVILLE - The return of the Lon Morris football program means hundreds of more students are walking the campus.
The program had laid dormant since 1940. The guys are on campus and will red-shirt before participating in spring drills in 2010. As an independent - the Bearcats will play a full schedule comprised of junior varsity teams from East Texas Baptist, Mary-Hardin Baylor, Louisiana College, Mississippi College, McMurry University and others.
Therefore, administrators say, enrollment has more than doubled since this time last year.
"We went from 206 residents," said David Gehrels, Director of Campus Life. "As of today, we have 627 students. It was chaotic at first...but it's since calmed down."
Dr. Loretta Gallegos, Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs, said it's a dream to have all these students.
But from a logistics standpoint, it was a bit of a nightmare. The school didn't want to turn anyone away, but they soon figured out about 250 students had no where to live on campus.
"We have great plans for Lon Morris," said Dr. Gallegos. "Eventually, we'll have enough housing."
Short-term plans called for most of the football players to live in two Jacksonville hotels.
Lon Morris college freshman Gabe Castillo, a football player from Duncanville, said he was quite shocked when he heard about his new campus living quarters.
Instead of spending his first year away from home and sleeping on a bunk in a dorm room, Castillo, along with his roommate, now have a bit more room to stretch. He's among the students living in a hotel room.
"I thought this was going to be bad at first," said Castillo. "But we have a pool and our freedom."
Another reason for the increase in enrollment is many of the athletes brought along friends from home whom also started attended the college.
MyKalen Lawrence and Stacie Gomez said they enrolled at Lon Morris because some of their friends from back home were playing football. They had never heard of Lon Morris but thought they'd give it a try.
According to school administrators, the students whom live at the hotels abide by the same room as those in dorms.
There are resident assistants to help out and security staff.
In addition - the hotels are only occupied by students, there are no guests.
The young adults get transportation to and from campus. Also, housekeepers change their linens and the rooms are equipped with refrigerators, microwaves and a TV.
City of Jacksonville leaders said they support Lon Morris' efforts. The city will lose out on around $500 each day in hotel occupancy tax money, but city leaders said they believe students will spend money in the community, thus eventually making up for the loss.