HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Houston Baptist University and Athletic Director Steve Moniaci are all business these days as they prepare to launch football on their campus in 2014.
However, to do that, the first order of business is to hire a head football coach and that “must do” date is quickly approaching, says Moniaci.
“My time line is to get somebody in here the first week in March. I’d like to have somebody in here the first week of March.”
The dollar amount needed to hire a head football coach and launch the program is roughly $500,000.00. But the monetary gift that’s being donated is much larger says Moniaci. While he did not disclose the name of the donor, he did state that HBU is expecting the gift any day now.
“It all depends on when that donation comes in. I really feel like we can turn this thing around once we get the donation in.”
Moniaci says he has a national pool of about 100 candidates from which to choose, but will cut that list down to roughly 10. He will slice the list of 10 down to a number that he plans to interview. Current and former professional head coaches have applied as well as current pro assistants, current college head coaches, current college assistants, and current high school coaches.
INSTITUTING FOOTBALL JUST MAKES SENSE
According to Moniaci, there are 4 main reasons why HBU decided to institute the sport of football. They wanted to increase the male enrollment, have more opportunities to engage their alumni, generate additional dollars, and by the way; this is the football-crazed State of Texas.
“If you’re a college, or university in the State of Texas, and you’re not playing football, you’re not really in the conversation; and as an institution, we want to be in the conversation. I call it the water cooler talk on Monday morning. If your school played football on Saturday in the fall, on Monday morning people are going to talk about it at work. If your school didn’t play football, you’re probably not part of that conversation.”
But what became a big part of the conversation among the administration was the definite possibility of increasing the male population on campus. HBU currently has more than 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students; a very large number of those are female.
“Adding the sport of football gives you more male athletes on your campus, obviously, and not just your football players, says Moniaci. Males tend to like to go to schools that play football whether they’re going to play football or not.”
“There was a study done that showed that for every football player you recruit, you could expect to see two more additional males on your campus. Our campus had begun to be skewed a little bit female. And so this is a way to kind of offset that.”
Moniaci and HBU also look for the sport to help somewhat finance itself. Football is an equivalency sport at the FCS level and not a head-count sport. The FCS level is unlike the FBS level where full scholarships are offered to individual players at institutions such as Rice and Alabama.
“At the FCS level, it’s 63 scholarships divided among 90-plus players,” says Moniaci. “If you give up 63 scholarships and, let’s say, you have roughly around 100 players, that’s 37 people who are paying to come to school here. That’s pretty good dollars at our institution.”
PRACTICE FACILITY – GAME DAY VENUE
The Southland Conference took HBU as a new member three weeks after coming to visit the campus in the fall of 2011 for a look-see. They will become an official member July 1, 2013 and will immediately begin competing for championships in all sports with the exception of men’s soccer. They will continue to compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
The Huskies plan to develop practice facilities on campus towards the Beechnut side, but will not initially play on campus. Moniaci says HBU would like to build a practice facility on campus which will give them the ability to eventually build a 15-to-20,000 seat stadium around it.
Meanwhile, they’re looking at different venues around the City and one of those is the new BBVA Compass Center, new home of the Houston Dynamo and Texas Southern Football. Obviously, playing there is roughly two to three years away. But, the new facility could be a possibility.
“One thing is, I don’t know for sure how much outside activity the dynamo are going to allow in there and TSU. The Dynamo and TSU are the two primary stakeholders in that facility. I don’t know if they know for sure yet and the facility is not done yet. I think we’ll get into some serious conversations with them, if they want to do that, once I get a head coach hired and once they get their building open.”
PLANNED AREA REVITALIZATION
HBU is located right in the heart of Southwest Houston along the Southwest Freeway. During the late 1970′ s, ’80’s, and early ‘90’s, the wide and vast area spreading east and west of Hillcroft and Bissonnet along the Southwest Freeway, was one of the fastest growing and more desirable places to live among some of Houston’s elite as well as young, well-educated professionals. In addition, one of SW Houston’s trendy shopping destinations, Sharpstown Mall, was one of the most popular malls in Houston.
That has since changed. Due to the affect of an economic downturn, huge job losses, transience, and a lack of continued development, the area has suffered. Moniaci and HBU see improvement with their vision and the addition of football.
“We’re trying to help bring it back; that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. One of our Ten Pillars is to improve the community around us. And so, we want to try and make it better for the residents of the area now. So, we feel like developing that piece of the freeway there could go a long way towards sparking some future development all the way around us.”
HBU just purchased Memorial Hermann Wellness Center which is now the fitness center for HBU students. Plans are in the works to begin moving some of their athletic offices, which would include football, into the new facility.
Because HBU owns the land from the Wellness Center along the SW Freeway to Fondren Road, long term plans, according to Moniaci, include the development of athletic facilities, multi-use, residential properties for the campus, and retail venues. But, he added that there’s a study currently being conducted to decide exactly what to do with that land.
“We want a bigger presence,” says Moniaci.
Once the head football coach is hired, the plan for a bigger presence begins at HBU.