Sam Houston State is currently in the Southland Conference and is considered a powerhouse in the majority of the major sports in Division I-AA. Although SHSU is undermined in college football in Texas due to the FBS likes of Texas Christian, Baylor, Texas A&M and University of Texas, what would it take for the Bearkats to make the jump to FBS?
This is all hypothetical, but what would happen if the Big XII or other conferences added a few teams from smaller FBS conferences? Could SHSU make the move up to the FBS? What would the Kats have to do in order to be successful in the FBS? By no means are the Kats able to move up to the Southeastern Conference, Big XII or Pac-12, but maybe the Kats could join their old rival Texas State in the Sunbelt Conference or Texas-San Antonio in Conference USA or even dip into another conference.
This article is not going through the financial numbers of what it takes to move up into the FBS, but the football program itself and what would help benefit the transition. While finances are the biggest factor in FBS sports, as seen by the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s recent shutdown to its football program due to monetary losses, the football program needs to be well developed to make the transition successfully.
In Texas State’s last season in the SLC, the Bobcats went 6-6 for the season and lost its contest to SHSU 36-14 in San Marcos. Talent is not the problem with SHSU. The Bearkats have a better squad than its former rival.
Former SHSU head coach Willie Fritz left SHSU following the 2013 season for Georgia Southern, and in Fritz’s first season at GSU, the Eagles finished 9-3 and a perfect 8-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. The 2014 season was the first FBS season for the Eagles, whose record was bowl eligible but were in “transition period” so their bowl eligibility was taken away. Not all transitions from FCS to FBS are as nice as the Eagles, but the Kats have a strong depth and coaching staff that brought the Kats team to the FCS semifinals in head coach K.C. Keeler’s first season at SHSU. The coaching staff has been preparing the team for bigger and better things.
This successful season led to 19 additions on National Signing Day last Wednesday. Some players were even looked at by FBS schools.
“Our coaching staff is doing a great job of recruiting,” sophomore cornerback Sammy Webb said. “They’re preparing by adding guys that can compete.”
In 2011, SHSU beat now C-USA’s UTSA 22-7 at home. The Roadrunners have not seen too much success since its transition to FBS in the Western Athletic Conference and C-USA. With UAB not returning next season to C-USA, a possible opening in the conference could be in the making. If SHSU would join the FBS, the Kats would have no trouble giving each team quality games.
After the Big XII missed out on getting a team to the FBS playoffs due to the lack of a postseason championship game, it’s no surprise the conference is scouting for teams to fill the conference back up to 12 teams. According to a Houston Chronicle article in December 2014, the University of Houston is a potential program hoping to catch the eye of Big 12. If the cards played just right, this would open a spot in the American Athletic Conference that could be filled by SHSU.
The Bearkats have had a strong presence in the SLC and FCS playoffs but can never fully pull things through and win a national championship. Since the 2011 season, the Kats have made it to the FCS playoffs every season, and in three of the four seasons, the Kats have fallen to the eventual FCS Champion North Dakota State, twice in the championship game. Although the Kats have not hoisted the championship trophy, they are a feared team in all of the FCS. If any FCS team were to move up to the FBS, the Kats could do it.
Redshirt freshman defensive end P.J. Hall believes SHSU has the talent to move up.
“Sam Houston has been able to compete with FBS opponents and also beat a couple of them,” Hall said.
Some believe a team has to be a champion in order to move up. Webb believes the team definitely has the talent to move up to the FBS but also believes a championship ring should come first.
“I personally feel that we have to win the national championship here before trying to move up,” Webb said.
All else being said, the football team cannot control whether the finances come in or what the university decides about moving up to the FBS. They can only determine what happens on the field.
“All this stuff about moving to the FBS we can’t control,” Webb said. “All we can is play and have fun doing what we love. Then everything else will fall into place.”