When the final horn blew Houston Baptist was down 74-0 to 4th ranked Sam Houston State. Bowers Stadium was nearly empty and head coach Vic Shealy looked worn out and yet somehow enthusiastic as he spoke to reporters. When asked about the blowout, Shealy was unfazed, “you really can't put into context just how young we are and just how big of an opportunity this was to grow our program.” Being beaten 74-0 wasn’t just an opportunity for the football program at HBU it may be a huge opportunity for the University as a whole.
Who Are These Guys?
Shealy came to HBU to build a program from nothing. He was hired in April of 2012, not quite 6 months after HBU decided to start a football program and accepted an invitation into the rough and tumble Southland Conference. That’s the same conference that has produced the 2-time FCS runner-up Bearkats from Sam Houston. Perennial power McNeese State also calls the league home and current number 6 ranked Central Arkansas is also on the schedule, as is former top 10-ranked Stephen F. Austin.
Shealy’s team is made up of two recruiting classes, the first of which contained only six players. Even by FCS standards the Huskies numbers are nearly impossible to compete with, but this is just the start of things and Shealy and his staff know that.
His coaching staff is impressive; Shealy was the defensive coordinator at Kansas before taking the job. He hired Scott Smith, the former head coach at Odessa Permian and Highland Park to run the offense and Roger Hinshaw, the former assistant at Clemson, Arkansas, and Rice, is on board to help coordinate the defense.
The rest of the staff is young but with varied levels of experience. Brent Vieselmeyer started Valor Christian High School’s program in 2007. Valor Christian quickly became a perennial powerhouse in Colorado winning four straight state titles in three different divisions. Cornerbacks coach Aaron Fletcher has coached at Metroplex powerhouses Dallas Carter, DeSoto, and Lancaster. Offensive line coach Drew O’Daniel has coached at North Carolina and played at LSU. Strength coach Paul Constantine moved in from Baylor where he assisted the development of the football team and other squads.
The Huskies lineup is young as you might imagine. Of their 44 man 2-deep roster 30 players are freshman and there isn’t a senior on the roster. As young as they are, they are undersized at most positions and it showed against the bigger, faster Bearkats. Sam Houston won’t be the only school on HBU’s inaugural schedule holds these tactical advantages, but then this is just the beginning.
If the Huskies are to survive and thrive in their new neighborhood they’ll have to recruit the Houston area well. They’ve divided Houston into seven zones with each assistant coach having the responsibility of recruiting one zone, plus an area outside of Houston. The idea being that you can draw a circle 40 miles outside of Beltway 8 and find almost every athlete you’ll need to be competitive, even after the bigger FBS schools have their pick.
21 of 22 signees in 2013 were from Texas; of that number 15 were from Houston or greater Houston. In 2012 all six of the Huskies first recruiting class had Houston area ties.
A few of the real coups of early recruiting were kids like Ka’Darius Baker, the All-State quarterback from Navasota’s 2012 3-A State Champions. Linebacker Garrett Dolan from Barbers Hill was a 4-A All State selection and All-East Texas in 2012. Wide Receiver Ethan Fry was 2012 State Champion Cedar Park’s Offensive MVP. Cody Moncure of Fort Bend Travis was an All-State receiver. While none of these signings will move the needle on Rivals they accomplish a couple of things; they come from by in large winning programs, they were recognized at the state level for their play, and they’ve all signed on to a program with no history, no facilities, and, at the time, no uniforms. It’s a great start.
This season the Huskies will split their home games between BBVA Compass Stadium and Strake Jesuit. For the foreseeable future HBU will play home games off-campus. The ultimate dream is to have an on-campus facility, but when you’re starting from scratch and spend almost a year without an on-campus practice field we’re dealing with baby steps.
HBU’s also moving into NCAA Division I in all sports which means that facilities in sports like basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, etc. will need to upgrades as well as infrastructure like weight rooms, locker rooms, and academic assistance. Currently there are plans for a Special Events Center to replace the current basketball and volleyball facility – Sharps Gym. The new facility will seat at least 5,000 spectators, a huge upgrade from the current gym.
HBU also has an ace up its sleeve in a 30-acre plot of land the school owns facing Highway 59. The area currently houses a shopping center. HBU plans to redevelop the location in part to accommodate the school’s Special Events Center but also to add a parking garage and potentially a hotel along with retail and office space. There are also plans to add a formal entry to the University off the 59 feeder.
Athletics, and more specifically, football is the centerpiece of all HBU’s expansion. Football means more applications, more students, more donations, and more opportunities for Houston Baptist to connect with its alumni. So 74-0 will be recorded in the loss column in the history of Houston Baptist football. Folks will look back and see a blowout. What they won’t see is the advancement that a 74-0 drumming allowed a University to make.