HANCOCK - First, it was a dream that took hold over 10 years ago for Finlandia University with the reemergence of an athletic program.
Then, ever since the purchase of Condon Field - renamed McAfee Field - in 2009 from Hancock Public Schools, and the completion of construction in 2011, it was a dream within reach for the Lions.
Now, with the announcement Tuesday that Tim Driscoll, longtime defensive coordinator at Michigan Tech and graduate of Marquette Senior High School, had been name the first ever head coach for Finlandia, it was a dream come true.
Finlandia will have a football team in 2015.
Driscoll will be the man to lead them out onto McAfee Field for the first time.
"The U.P. connection, Tim is a U.P. guy," FU athletic director Chris Salani said about choosing Driscoll among a host of candidates. "That is vitally important to the development of our program moving forward. He comes from a football family, a U.P. football family."
"To be able to be sitting here today, this is just outstanding," Driscoll, who spent 11 years at Michigan Tech, added.
Just as Salani and Finlandia's dream was realized Tuesday, Driscoll spoke about the dreams of young men in the U.P. looking to play college football.
As the only NCAA Division III university in the Upper Peninsula that offers football, Finlandia can now offer an opportunity to local kids that has been missing.
"I want to answer: Why? Why do I think this is the time, why is the time right to be the head football coach at Finlandia? Why is the time right to start the program?" Driscoll said. "Well, number one, it is the only Division III football program in the U.P. I feel very strongly that a U.P. kid who wants to play college football will have an opportunity to play here at Finlandia. we want to get this done with local kids as much as we can."
Driscoll's work begins immediately.
The coach must put together a "skeleton class" to attend Finlandia in the fall 2014 semester - 35 or so freshmen that take place in practices without games - before the schedule begins for real in 2015. He must follow the 'skelly' recruits with another full class from current high school juniors to have enough bodies to get the program off the ground.
The first college football game for the Lions will take place at McAfee Field Sept. 5, 2015, with Finlandia hosting Alma College.
"We need to get some seniors in high school this year that have the ability to be the first, be a part of the first class in this football program at Finlandia University," Driscoll said.
"The first thing is going to be recruiting. We need to get some people here."
Salani still has plenty of work to do on his end as well.
The Lions are in talks to join a conference - likely the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, based on previous discussions with Salani - though the Lions longtime athletic director did not give a timeline for when those talks would be resolved.
"We are hopeful that in the very near future, that opportunity comes realized," Salani said.
Salani is also still working to fund and construct "The Lions Den" Field House, a three-story facility of locker rooms, coaches offices, trainers rooms, bleacher seats and a press box.
At the press conference Tuesday, Finlandia handed out literature on naming and sponsorship opportunities for deep-pocketed residents or businesses to help make The Lions Den a reality.
Salani said the new field house would be completed by the first football game of 2015 as well.
"That is a process we have been working very diligently on establishing a date. We're fully anticipating that the structure and amenities next to McAfee Field will be ready by next fall," Salani said.
While still a long way off, Driscoll said his football philosophy will be similar to the one seen at Michigan Tech. Control the ball, stop the run, limit mistakes.
He believes following that path will be the quickest to success with a start-up program.
"We want to win some games," Driscoll said.