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SHSU Sports Teams Set to Take on BIG-TIME Foes

Over the years, Sammy Bearkat has had some tough opponents. But none like the ones athletic teams will face this fall.
Never in the 104-year history of intercollegiate athletic competition at Sam Houston State University has there been a fall like this one.

When Sam Houston Normal Institute and Rice kicked off athletic competition for both on October 6, 1912, few involved in that game likely had any idea of how BIG college sports would become. This fall SHSU's schedules feature some of the biggest names ever.

Soccer gets it started with an Aug. 31 meeting with SMU in Huntsville, and the next day takes on LSU in Baton Rouge. Two weeks later they play TCU in Fort Worth.

Volleyball meets Oklahoma Sept. 8 in a tournament in Denton, and later in the month Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Soccer also adds Texas A&M at College Station.

But the big interest comes in football and basketball, with football taking on SMU Sept. 16 and national champion Texas Sept. 30, both on the road. Basketball meets the most successful NCAA basketball team ever, UCLA, Dec. 19 in Los Angeles.

"This is an effort on our part to upgrade our schedules and has been in place for several years," said Bobby Williams, SHSU athletics director.

"Opportunities have come our way especially in football due to the adding of the 12th game. Prestige matchups in other sports have increased due to opportunities provided by tournaments and success of the program in the case of basketball."

Everyone who is a part of SHSU athletics, from the players to the fans, know that these games will not be easy. The coaches admit that playing big time opponents on the road means wins will be hard to get, but puts extra cash in the coffers and provides a benchmark for their programs.

"It helps us to better evaluate our team and what it takes to arrive at conference games already performing at a higher level," said Marcia Oliveira, SHSU soccer coach.

Everyone involved also knows that upsets do happen, as they did when Bob Marlin and the basketball team beat Texas Tech and Bobby Knight in 2001 in Lubbock, and last year when they surprised Missouri.

The Kats return to Lubbock this year Nov. 11, and will not be taken as lightly, but Marlin is nevertheless excited by the Tech and Knight relationship.

"It is difficult to get a major program to play on the road because of financial reasons," said Marlin. "Texas Tech is contracted to come to Huntsville for a game during the next couple of years. Coach Knight was willing to do this when many coaches will not."

Football coach Todd Whitten said that two years ago, when he was coaching at Tarleton State, he would not have imagined that he would be playing a defending national champion, at least this soon.

Whitten said he and his staff are at the same time excited and realistic.

"Our players are excited about it," he said, "much more so probably than the coaches."

But while Whitten has been at SHSU for only two years, he and his staff can look back and remind the players of some inspirational performances by past Bearkat teams.

The old-timers like to remember football's 1939 win over the Rice, 9-8 on a last second field goal. Even more recently, just this spring, the baseball team won over a Rice nine that went on to finish third in the baseball College World Series.

Baseball also provided a victory over the highest ranked NCAA Division I team ever, when John Skeeters' Kats beat second-ranked University of Miami 5-4 in a Division I playoff game in Austin in 1996.

Marlin's roundballers have added a series of prestigious wins to the Sam sports history book, with road victories over Houston, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Baylor and Bradley, in addition to Missouri and Texas Tech and Bobby Knight.

There have been near misses as well, including football losses of 38-34 to the University of Houston in 1987, 13-9 to Baylor and 17-10 to UT El Paso in 1990, and 14-13 to Rice in 1993.

Orders for tickets to the SMU ($15) and Texas ($45) games are being taken by the SHSU athletic department.   Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 in Dallas and not yet determined for the Sept. 30 game in Austin.

Karen Gray, director of alumni relations, said there has been great interest in the SMU and Texas games especially, and that her office is planning tailgate/reception events for both. Alumni relations is also offering a charter bus to Dallas.

The SMU event will be 5-6:30 p.m. The Texas gathering will be held at Baby Acapulco's (5610 N IH 35), and no time has been set. Gray said the event will end two hours before game time.

But no matter what the time is on the clock, Bearkat athletics will be BIG-TIME like never before.


SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Aug. 22, 2006
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Writer: Jennifer Gauntt
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