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When will UNF get a football team? Could a temporary password in the president's office hold a clue?

First Coast News sat down with the new president at the University of North Florida. He addressed topics from the future of football at UNF to the teacher shortage.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — He's the seventh president at the University of North Florida, and his stories about a temporary computer password and an oil lamp in Tunisia address two major topics.  

Dr. Moez Limayem sat down with First Coast News to answer questions as he takes over a campus with more than 16,000 students.

First, the temporary password.

"A true story," Dr. Limayem says.  

When he first arrived at UNF the IT team came in to set up his computer. They gave him a temporary password.

"The temporary password was OSPREY FOOTBALL 2026," he says.

So is he already giving a goal to start up a football program at UNF?  

It's a question everyone seems to ask. When is UNF going to get a football team? Limayem says 2026 came strictly from his IT folks, but does he agree with that date?

"No, I don't," he says. "The answer is, 'I don't know.' There's only one thing worse than not having a football program. Do you know what it is? Having a bad football program."

Limayem says football will come, but for now he wants to focus on the 19 sports UNF does have.

The cost to bring football to UNF would be huge, and he says the funds must come from private sources, not the state.

Limayem, prior to his selection as UNF's new president, was head of fiscal management for the University of South Florida. Of course, USF has a football team now, but he says look at the costs projected to build a new stadium on the USF campus. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the bill could hit $200 million. Limayem mentions costs that could hover around $350 million.

For UNF, he says, "I'm a strong believer that a plan without resources is a hallucination."

Limayem says the top goal now for UNF involves drawing in students. He says he wants kids in elementary school to grow up thinking that if they work hard they'll be able to go to UNF, and not just think of the school as a backup option.

He says his wife, Dr. Alya Limayem, is taking on a teaching role at UNF.  Her areas of expertise include nanotechnology and microbiology.

He says, "She's the smart one of the family" and then --- with a smile -- adds,  "They brought her here and said, now maybe your husband can be president."

Credit: Dr. Limayem and his wife, Dr. Alya Limayem

Limayem says since he's arrived in Jacksonville, he's listened to concerns from UNF employees.

A comment from a facilities worker hit him particularly hard he says.

Limayem explains the employee told him that they made less money at UNF than they would if they went to work for McDonald's. 

"That really affected me," Limayem said.

He says it's too soon for a solution, but he intends to work on the issue. 

Another big issue he talks about is the teacher shortage.

He says the reality is teachers don't get rich teaching, but he plans to work with Duval County Superintendent Dr. Diana Green and other superintendents in our area to address teacher pay and to inspire more students to become teachers.

His passion for education, he says, has roots in Tunisia, where he grew up watching his father tutor children in a poor village. He would tutor after hours for no pay.

He says one particular memory from that shaped his life.  

The village in Tunisia, the northernmost part of Africa, had no electricity.  His father would tutor after hours, and it was pitch dark. 

"We had one oil lamp for the family," he recalls.  And one time he asked his father, "why are you taking the oil lamp and leaving us with candles? That's not fair."

Limayem says he father replied, "They need it more than we do. They need to go to high school and college to change their lives."  

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