HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Houston Baptist University took a significant step Monday in introducing former Kansas defensive coordinator Vic Shealy as the new head coach of its start up football program.
Now the real arduous work can begin as the Huskies look to compete 2013 and begin Southland Conference play in 2014. Shealy began making the recruiting rounds Monday and the first two assistant coaches he is allowed to immediately hire will soon hit the recruiting trails.
And while they begin stocking the program with Texas talent, the real hard work preparing the infrastructure will fall squarely on the shoulders of athletic director Steve Moniaci.
“Now we are moving forward and the hard work begins,” said Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett, who was in town for Monday’s announcement. “It’s one thing to announce it. It’s another to hire a coach. Now all the pieces have got to come together and that’s going to be a challenge.”
It certainly seems that a great deal of progress has been made since school president Dr. Robert Sloan and Moniaci first began floating the idea of starting a I-AA on Football Championship Sub-Division program a couple years ago. They wanted to add something that will attract more males students to the small private school campus of about 2,500 students and they wanted to gain greater attention and excitement among the student body and alumni.
They are well on their way to that, but a lot of work still needs to be done.
The biggest order of business is figuring out a temporary home for the Huskies to play in until a modest on-campus venue can be phased in. Moniaci has had preliminary discussions with the MLS’s Dynamo about using the BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown that will also serve as the home of the Texas Southern football team when it is complete. He has also talked with the upstart minor league baseball club the Skeeters about sharing their Constellation Field in Sugar Land.
No decisions have been made because things are still very fluid for the Dynamo and Skeeters who are still trying to get their facilities open and for HBU, which is moving closer to turning its dream into reality.
“Now within a couple weeks both of those facilities will be open, we’ve got a head coach so a couple weeks down the line we will start getting serious about what our options are and where we are going to play,” Moniaci said.
Once that is complete HBU can turn its attention to building a practice facility for the football team that it hopes will eventually morph into a 10,000 to 15,000-seat stadium that could expand even more in the future.
Obviously that is going to cost serious coin, which it sounds like Sloan and Moniaci have been successful in securing from some deep pocket donors. Getting involved in college football, even at the FCS level, isn’t for the faint of heart.
For instance, high-end Southland Conference schools Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin have overall athletic budgets of $12 million with roughly 25 to 30 percent of that or $3 to $3.5 million being absorbed by football.
HBU, which will take a while to reach those levels, doesn’t have to start with a football budget that high but eventually will have to come close to be competitive.
Lamar and Southeastern Louisiana are two Southland Conference schools that have re-started football in recent years and neither has experienced success to this point as it attempts to get on par with the other members.
“There is a financial challenge of getting that start up rolling,” Burnett said. “The numbers can vary greatly on what it costs to get that started. There is going to be facility issues, the staffing but not just the football staff but what else does the athletic department need to do? They will need to get the training staff up to football size, sports information, marketing promotions.
“There are a lot of other things that are going to be impacted by this. But I think certainly from a competitive standpoint I would be hard pressed to say how much it takes. I don’t know. We’ve seen Lamar play for a couple years and they haven’t finished very high in the conference. Southeastern Louisiana, six, seven, eight years now is still not at that championship level.
“It may take five, eight, 10 years. I’m just not sure what the count or time of things is going to be.”
Whatever the case it’s commendable that HBU is willing to take on this challenge in the current world of declining budgets and escalating costs of competing in major college athletics. For the Huskies it’s all about the chance to really join in on Texas’ most beloved pastime.
“This is an enormously exciting day for us because really I believe athletics is vital to the college experience for young people today,” Sloan said. “Our culture is very committed to athletics. And of course if you live in Texas you have to play football.
“So it’s very exciting for us getting the head coach here. It feels like it’s real now. We’ve known we were going to do it, we were committed to doing it. Having the head football coach makes all the difference.”
Now here comes the real work.