Whatever It Takes: Houston Baptist University Turns to Football to Build a Name

Houston Baptist University decides the best way to grow is to start a football team for the first time in its 50-year history.

With the lack of a practice field, a portion of the Huskies' spring football drills took place on HBU's soccer pitch. The Husky soccer teams aren't exactly living the high life — the women's squad dresses in a room across campus that the players recently painted themselves, and the men's team can't even claim a legitimate locker room. If you've ever watched 250-pound-plus, cleat-wearing players running, stomping and shuffling on a grass field for hours and hours, you can imagine what that looked like by the end of spring football.
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On September 14, the Huskies, who had taken a nine-hour bus ride to the South Plains city of Plainview, played against Wayland Baptist, an NAIA school that revived its football team in 2012 after a 72-year absence.

In front of nearly 4,000 spectators, HBU, which stockpiled 626 yards of total offense, broke a 28-28 halftime tie and blistered the Jackrabbits for a 52-28 victory, the first in its program's history.

The private university, located at Southwest Freeway at Fondren Road, saw all-time high enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year. HBU officials say that football is key to the school's long-term plan to grow the student body fivefold.
Photo by Michael Starghill, Jr.
The private university, located at Southwest Freeway at Fondren Road, saw all-time high enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year. HBU officials say that football is key to the school's long-term plan to grow the student body fivefold.
Husky wide receiver Darian Lazard, one of the team's best players, transferred from the University of Houston to contribute to the start-up program.
Photo by Michael Starghill, Jr.
Husky wide receiver Darian Lazard, one of the team's best players, transferred from the University of Houston to contribute to the start-up program.

According to Erdmann and Hickey, winning games is just a part of building a program that's not going to face-plant.

"Make sure you have a fighting chance with everything. Make sure it's funded appropriately and those funds are not heavy into revenue streams that will fluctuate," says Erdmann.

Hickey adds, "Your city leaders [and] major donors to your campus need to be in sync with you. Otherwise, you're going to run into too many walls."

Of course, the casual fan doesn't care how a school's budget is balanced or how a donor may or may not be nurtured. He or she just wants to see wins, something Erdmann can testify to.

"[The fan base] has been loyal and hung in there with us, but the time is coming where we have to reward them," Erdmann says about the South Alabama football team, the Jaguars, who were initiated as a full-time member of the FBS this season and have started 2-1.

In the future, when HBU faces big boys like Sam Houston State, it won't be able to get away with what transpired in Huntsville in the middle of the fourth quarter.

With a spinning ball on the ground in the end zone and a charging mob of third-string Bearkats ready to pounce, the result of an errant long snap hitting the leg of an HBU upback, David Dunkin, the Huskies' backup quarterback, who was forced into punting duties, swiveled 180 degrees and booted the ball hard and high out of the back of the end zone.

The football clanged off the right upright and into the arms of a Sam Houston defender. For the football version of The Bad News Bears, the Bearkats were awarded a safety for illegal kicking. Eight more minutes of game time later, it was all over.

"Obviously it's hard," Shealy said in a post-game interview with the Press and a handful of other media outlets. "Probably wonder why you're playing them in the first place because you knew that could happen."

After the game, the Huskies, who included a starting offensive lineman hobbling on crutches, slowly made their way from the sideline, the 74-0 result looming on the scoreboard behind them.

As the battered team walked up the stairs and into the locker room, the remaining Husky fans rose from the aluminum benches and shouted, "H-B-U! H-B-U!" It was the first opportunity they'd had to cheer all night.

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8 comments
susanwilliams407
susanwilliams407

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scottscott
scottscott

Football is not needed in the world. I have checkers and a board.
But if they want football, that's great. We are only here for a moment in time.

letsgetbizet
letsgetbizet

What would be even better than putting money into existing programs is not cutting existing programs from the university completely to funnel money into the football program. The author of this article doesn't seem to realize that it was announced that the entire HBU instrumental program was going to be cut during the 2010-2011 school year. At the time concerned music students were told that there would be no football program for "a long time". I guess at HBU time is of the essence only when it benefits their athletes.

roguebotanist
roguebotanist

Shoot, might as wallow in the money trough like the big boys and suck the life out of  academics to fund it.

Margaret Bott
Margaret Bott

They need to put the $$$$ into their wonderful art department and art gallery instead of starting a football program. Even just a portion of those funds would make a huge difference to the students and faculty and the community in SW Houston.

Jeff Hill
Jeff Hill

Football at HBU. That's high school 4A, right?

le_creole_vacher
le_creole_vacher

@letsgetbizet HBU barely has a music program...I swear dont you people realize a strong mind and a weak body doesnt match?  I thought you supposed intellects would value a balance but obviously you would prefer being the fat tuba player that plays WoW on his days off.  Besides that, you should be proud that HBU demands its athletes to be scholars as well....no degree in communications here...

tony.b
tony.b

@Jeff Hill Is it? I though with their enrollment, it would be 5A,...

 
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