A little over a year ago, Houston Baptist University was mostly known for high academic standards and a men's gymnastics squad that achieved success in the 1980s.
After a $10 million investment that helped pay for a football field, a full-fledged coaching staff and enough manpower to examine 300 additional transcripts from recruits, HBU, which a lot of people only know from the ubiquitous green sign on Southwest Freeway near Fondren Road, hopes that they'll be recognized for its brand-new football team.
The Christian university in Sharpstown hopes that football can help grow the sleepy institution -- which, in the 2013-2014 academic year, enrolled the most students in its 50-year history -- from approximately 2,900 students to about 10,000 co-eds. HBU's venture models a nationwide trend, where even tiny liberal arts colleges with enrollments of 1,000 or fewer are starting football in order to try and attract more attention.
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With proven winners in HBU's athletic department that includes athletic director Steve Moniaci and head football coach Vic Shealy, the Huskies have installed a steady foundation. This season, HBU is playing a developmental seven-game schedule before hopping to the Southland Conference, the home of Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin State, and Lamar universities.
There's still work to do. A lot of it. In its first game in program history, the Huskies traveled up I-45 to Huntsville's Bowers Stadium, where they played the two-time Football Championship Subdivision runners-up, the SHSU Bearkats. The Huskies tried really hard, but still came up really short, dropping the game, 74-0.
But two weeks later on the road, HBU rebounded with a 52-28 pasting of Wayland Baptist. With a 1-1 record, HBU's first ever home game takes place at 7 p.m. this Saturday at Strake Jesuit Crusader Stadium, 8900 Bellaire Boulevard, against Oklahoma Baptist.
Read about the birth of the HBU football program in this week's cover story.