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ABILENE, Texas – McMurry University’s football team takes to the field this Friday, March 23 at 3:30 p.m., for the opening of Spring Practice. The preparation for the 2012 season will be the embryonic first steps toward the War Hawks’ status as an NCAA Division II program.

At first glance, many returning faces will be the same among the players – as well as coaches – and even the drills and regiments of spring football may be indistinguishable from previous years for right now. However, make no mistake about it, when McM head coach Hal Mumme leads the War Hawks onto the turf at Wilford Moore Stadium, it will be as a program with the mindset that it is making the turn toward NCAA II.

“We are focused on the future,” Mumme said. “Our expectations have always been high for McMurry football, both on the field and in the classroom. But now we have the responsibility of knowing that we are the foundation upon which we want to build a top NCAA Division II program, just like we did the past three seasons at the Division III level.

“Every player, coach and staff member involved with War Hawk Football needs to feel that ‘electricity’ of knowing what’s ahead. We truly are a part of history on this campus and need to embrace this opportunity for excellence.”

Mumme and his staff will welcome back a total of 63 players from last season’s roster. The 2011 McM squad went 9-3 overall and reached the NCAA III playoffs for the first time in school history, advancing to the second round before bowing out to the nation’s No. 3-ranked team.

Additionally, transfers who have already enrolled at McMurry since last season, will be a part of Mumme’s rites of spring.

“We plan on spending a lot of time integrating the transfers into our system,” Mumme said. “The spring sessions are a great chance for them to really get the feel of what we want to do on the field; what it takes to be successful in the way we do things. It’s a very good teaching time before we begin going all-out in August.”

McMurry’s spring football drills will continue until April 21, culminating with a final team practice at 2 p.m. on the last day.

A part of that final weekend will be the War Hawks’ annual awards banquet on the evening of April 19.