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A $2 million nest egg: What UNF, CSI Companies partnership means for the Ospreys

“This is one of the most impactful gifts UNF has ever received,” athletic director Nick Morrow said.
Credit: UNF
Rendering of new basketball court.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The connection between the University of North Florida and CSI Companies already ran deep. 

CSI CEO Chris Flakus and CFO Josh Bowling are UNF graduates, and Bowling played basketball for the Ospreys from 2000-2004. 

In addition, more than three dozen employees of the CSI Jacksonville location on Baymeadows Road, just a few minutes from the campus, graduated from UNF. 

Those ties make the announcement on Tuesday at UNF Arena between the school’s athletic department and CSI a solid fit. 

CSI and UNF signed a seven-year, $2.1 million deal, the largest corporate partnership in the school’s history. It will benefit all 19 programs at UNF but most immediately will help see the $3.4 million renovation project at UNF Arena to the finish line and start another to replace the lighting at all outdoor sports venues. 

“This is one of the most impactful gifts UNF has ever received,” athletic director Nick Morrow said.

CSI, which provides strategic guidance and custom solutions in areas of talent, technology and managed workforce services to Fortune 500 companies, will have naming placement at every UNF athletic venue, starting with the new basketball court – the first time it has been replaced since basketball began at the school in 1993. 

Bowling said the deal also is historic from the CSI standpoint. 

“This marks a pivotal point in our company's history,” he said. “The magnitude of this agreement alone speaks to our growth and strategic direction. We’ve been in Jacksonville for more than 20 years and we wanted our first major sponsorship to be unique and most importantly benefit the local community.” 

UNF men’s basketball coach Matthew Driscoll believes the relationship will be the start of a big push forward for the entire campus. 

“There’s a lot happening but there’s so much more and that is where CSI comes in,” he said. “They have the vision. I’m a big believer that when you’ve got a hammer, a shovel in the ground and have things moving, it looks like progress. You’ve got to have the ability to say, ‘we are moving forward.’” 

So what does it mean? 

The University began tearing up the court on Wednesday and along with it install new lighting and a sound system. The CSI Companies Court will feature a map of Florida in the middle, with a star showing the location of Jacksonville and the program’s “Swoop” motto at each end. 

Work on The Bank of England Hospitality Suite, which will be used to entertain boosters, donors, recruits and stage university functions, also will begin this summer. A new weight room will be added for “arena sports” (basketball and volleyball) and new locker rooms are in the works. 

Click here for more from the Florida Times-Union.

Credit: UNF
New hospitality suite.

Let there be (new) lights 

UNF’s outdoor sports will be seen in a brighter light. Baseball, softball and tennis facilities will get new lights, along with Hodges Stadium, used for men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s track, as well as events such as high school and college track meets. 

What’s in it for CSI? 

Yes, the company will be branded at every Osprey athletic facility. But with 25 percent of his employees coming from UNF, Bishop wants more. 

For example, his internship program currently is about 75 percent UNF students. He said the school’s business, finance, accounting, technology and health administration curriculums provide a steady stream of potential employees and it’s not lost on him that UNF student-athletes had an average 3.46 GPA last semester and all 19 teams had a 3.0 or better. 

“It increases our brand footprint and provides access to an educated talent base,” he said. “And not just student-athletes, but the general student population. There are so many industries that we’re heavily concentrated in and in line with the programs they have here. Knowing the curriculum, knowing the output and quality of the student who comes from UNF, it was an opportunity we couldn't pass up.”  

Naming rights 

UNF Arena has never had a corporate naming rights deal. However, Morrow said the planned renovations and the partnership with CSI could lead to that. 

“Once we finish this round of renovation, I think that will position this arena to be more attractive for a naming-rights situation,” Morrow said. 

Then he stole a glance at Bishop and smiled.

“Hopefully we treat CSI Companies really, really well and they want to put their name on it,” he said. 

Click here for more from the Florida Times-Union.

What’s next?

Morrow is working with the coaches and his operational team to come up with renderings of renovations or new facilities for nearly every sport. He said he wants to be prepared in case a donor decides to step forward and has a particular sport they want to help. 

There has been chatter that baseball’s Harmon Stadium is the next facility in need of an upgrade but Morrow said he’s not picking favorites at this point. 

“I wouldn't prioritize the next project,” he said. “Just update the renderings and be prepared.” 

Click here for more from the Florida Times-Union.

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