SHSU Stadiums House School’s Sports History

Photographer: Chelsey Norton

 Sam Houston State University opened in 1879 and has a rich history. Like with any school, there is a history that comes with the sports attached to it. With the recent logo change as a nod to the history of the Bearkats, The Houstonian wanted to take a look at where SHSU sports have been played over the years.

The first stadium opened was Joseph Pritchett Field, named after the 42-year professor and dean. This stadium was opened in 1912 and was the first host of SHSU football. It held a maximum capacity of 500 people.

At the time, the school was not known as the Bearkats, but rather as the Normals. This was because of the school’s original name: Sam Houston Normal Institute.

The Normals played against Rice University in their first game in school history on Oct. 6, 1912 losing 20-6. In their final game played on Pritchett Field, they won 51-7 over Washburn University of Kansas.

The school played all of their football games at this field until 1985, but would continue to use the field for other sports. Currently, Pritchett hosts the SHSU women’s soccer team and has been their home field since they began in 2003.

Baseball also makes up a large part of the school’s history. Baseball would play in a facility right next to Pritchett until they finally got their own field.

D.C. Holleman Field was built in 1948 and hosted all Bearkat baseball games until 2006. This field was named after DeWitte Holleman who was a former student at the school and lettered in both basketball and baseball, being the captain of the baseball team in 1930. The field was renamed after him in 1983.

After the program was revived in 1949 following a 20-year absence, head coach Hayden Malone led the team to a 15-5 record in his first season, and followed it up with a 19-1 season in 1950. In 1951, the field was known as one of the best in the state of Texas.

The Bearkats played their final home game there on May 21, 2005. The field currently does not host any school athletic programs, but is still used for intramural sports at the university.

 In 1976, the school was finally able to have its own home indoor stadium. Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum was built and has hosted all basketball and volleyball matches for the Bearkats since opening.  The stadium holds a maximum capacity of 6,100.

The men’s basketball team had its first winning record at the new stadium in the 1979-80 season under newly-hired coach Bob Derryberry. In the following season, the team finished first in the NAIA Lone Star Conference for the last team and would eventually make its way to Division I over the next few years. This stadium would help both the men’s and women’s team reach Division I and join the Southland Conference in 1987.

Johnson Coliseum also hosts the Bearkats volleyball team. They moved into Johnson Coliseum in 1976 and have been under head coach Brenda Gray since 1984.

In 1986, the Bearkats football team moved into its current home at Elliot T. Bowers Stadium, named after the former SHSU president. On Sept. 13, 1986, the Bearkats hosted their first game at Bowers and faced off against Montana State in a 23-6 victory.

The stadium is able to seat 14,000 people at a time, but has opened up the grass hills next to the stands during some games. On Oct. 24, 1994, the Bearkats held a crowd of 16,148 against Alcorn State University, a record which is still intact today.

The football team hosted its first playoff game at Bowers in 2001 defeating Northern Arizona 34-31. Since the stadium’s opening, the Bearkats have won the SLC seven times and made regular appearances in the FCS Playoffs over the last decade.

The stadium also hosts the Bearkats track and field team.

The two most recent facilities built for the Bearkats have been their baseball and softball complexes. Both Don Sanders Stadium and the Bearkat Softball Complex were opened in 2006. The baseball field was named after Don Sanders who is a Texas philanthropist and SHSU alumni that helped fund the complex because of his love for baseball.

Since these fields have been opened, the Bearkats baseball team was able to reach the NCAA Super Regional in 2017 for the first time in school history. The softball team has also been a consistently good program since the opening of their field, including an upset win in the first round of the regional tournament against University of Texas.

 With the rich history of SHSU sports behind them, each program seems to continue to make its own history every year, no matter what sport it is.

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