During the early formation of the school, word circulated that the goal was to make Ave Maria the Notre Dame of the South.Wait a second. Monaghan is saying that though other people had "early" and "short-lived" comments about Division I sports at AMU, he never had any idea of Division I. That is NOT how I remember it. Thankfully, it's hard to hide the past when you have the Internet.
"There was never any idea of Division I, if ever," Monaghan said. "There were comments in the early days of doing that and it was very short-lived and pie in the sky. The highest level I would ever want to see Ave Maria at is Division I-AA."
March 2004, Naples News:
Monaghan talked about sports Tuesday. One of his dreams for the university is to have a football team that will someday play and beat Notre Dame.April 2003, Naples News in a very flattering exclusive feature on Monaghan:
"Many schools don't have a sports program, but I think they're missing something," Monaghan said. "Sports are such good character builders."
Known for his desire to have a Division 1-A football team, Monaghan told the Founders Club it would have to go on hold for a while.
"We're probably not going to be able to have football until four to five years down the road, at the earliest," he said. "We can't start in Division 1-A so we can play Notre Dame. We have to start at the bottom."
Monaghan said he hoped Ave Maria will be able join the Sunshine Conference, the same one that Florida Gulf Coast, Barry and Nova Southeastern universities belong to.
"There's no Divison 3 in the state of Florida, so we have to start in Division 2 but no football," Monaghan said. "We have to lobby to get into the conference, but they seem to be receptive."
Monaghan came to Naples a year ago to look for a place to build a university somewhere near Naples, a place he had visited before and had come to enjoy. He had sold Domino's Pizza for $1 billion and put more than $200 million of it into Ave Maria University, which he said would be "unabashedly Catholic" and someday rival Notre Dame with Division I-level sports.February 2003, New York Times:
The founder of Ave Maria, Tom Monaghan, is better known as the founder of Domino's Pizza. He has grand plans for the university: majors as varied as theology and hotel management; a Division I football team; three golf courses, including one for donors only; and a new town, Ave Maria, with a commercial center joining the campus.December 2002, St. Petersburg Times:
Their plan is for the school, Ave Maria University, to offer a solid grounding in philosophy and theology, and to some day field a good Division I football team like Notre Dame's.Finally, from AMU's very own press release issued on November 20, 2002 by the Robert Falls public relations firm, announcing the official opening of AMU, a copy of which can be found here:
Bishop John J. Nevins, head of the Catholic Diocese of Venice, has referred to the school as a possible "Notre Dame of the South."
Still, he has seen what a strong athletic program has done for large Catholic schools such as Notre Dame and Boston College.
"I think if it weren't for Knute Rockne, Notre Dame (enrollment 11,000-plus) would have a thousand students today and nobody outside of northern Indiana would have heard of them," Monaghan said of the legendary Fighting Irish coach. "I think sports is a way to jump-start that awareness problem a little bit."
NAPLES, FLA. (November 20, 2002) - Officials today announced a new Catholic university will be built east of Naples, Fla., with a new town to support it. The new school, Ave Maria University, will be an academic center of international scope founded on Catholic religious beliefs and committed to developing a Division I-caliber athletics program.A couple of quick Google searches will show dozens of similar news articles from Fall 2002 to at least Spring of 2004 talking about Monaghan's plans for a Division I sports program. This August 2007 article from the Naples News is the earliest reference by Monaghan about AMU not aiming for Division I that I found.
His Excellency John J. Nevins, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, which includes the Naples area, said the new university presents an opportunity for a fruitful lay-clergy partnership that can enhance the spiritual and cultural life while more fully meeting the educational needs of the entire state. "It is exciting to think that our diocese will include what may some day become the Notre Dame of the South," said Bishop Nevins, who is on the university's Board of Ecclesial Advisors along with Cardinals Christoph Schonborn and J. Francis Stafford.
Monaghan said the new university is committed to developing a great sports program. "This means football, baseball, basketball, golf, tennis, equestrian sports, swimming and other team and individual sports," he said. "We are committed to being competitive on a national level within the first 20 years of opening our doors."
"And who knows? In a few years we could have another nationally ranked football team here in Florida," added [Florida Governor Jeb] Bush.
So has Monaghan been misquoted? Assuming the quote is accurate, is Monaghan purposefully lying when he says, "There was never any idea of Division I"? Is he taking a page out of Dobranski's book of tactics and trying to rewrite history? Or maybe Monaghan has honestly forgotten what his position was a few years ago?