MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -The University of South Alabama's board of trustees voted unanimously Thursday to start a football program in a long-discussed move for the university.
The university plans to field a team starting in 2009 and make a full transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision by 2013.
South Alabama President Gordon Moulton told the trustees he recommended the move because of support from alumni and students. More than 2,500 students signed a petition in favor of football even though it will mean increased student activity fees.
``This effort is really about the students and alumni, and bringing them closer to the university,'' Moulton said. ``We also believe this will strengthen our already close relationship with the community.''
South Alabama competes in the Sun Belt Conference in 14 sports. League Commissioner Wright Waters said the Jaguars football team would join the Sun Belt ``as soon as they get their Division I-A certification.''
Moulton and athletic director Joe Gottfried hope to hire a head coach early next year.
The program will largely be funded by a $300 increase in annual student activity fees, projected to generate about $3.5 million per year. The school also plans to start a 200-member marching band.
The national alumni association has pledged $50,000 over the next five years to help with startup costs for the program.
The team is expected to play at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. City Council President Reggie Copeland has said the university will likely be allowed to use the stadium free of charge for five years.

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