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OPINION

SPORTS: HBU hires first football coach

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HOUSTON (BP) -- Houston Baptist University has hired Vic Shealy as head football coach to launch its football program in the fall of 2013.

"I am especially encouraged by Coach Shealy's commitment not only to football, but to the academic and spiritual mission of Houston Baptist University," HBU President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said. "His outstanding coaching career and his commitment to college football will be a great asset in recruiting student-athletes and coaches for our football program, and I believe Coach Shealy will provide great leadership both on and off the playing field as HBU's first football coach."

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Shealy comes to HBU after spending two years at Kansas, where he was defensive coordinator and secondary coach last season. He was the defensive coordinator at Richmond in 2009 and at Austin Peay in 1994.

Shealy was the head coach at Azusa Pacific from 1995-98, leading the Cougars to the NAIA national championship in his final season. He posted an overall record of 27-14-1 at Azusa Pacific, including a 12-2 record during the championship run. He has also served in assistant roles at UNLV and Air Force.

Steve Moniaci, director of athletics at the 2,500-student university, said HBU decided to start a football program for several reasons -- one of which had to do with geography.

"If you don't play football in Texas, you leave yourself somewhat out of the conversation when people start talking about colleges and universities in this state," Moniaci said.

Another reason reflects Sloan's long-term vision for the school to grow both in size and in name recognition. Moniaci said the university thought adding football would help accomplish both objectives and would serve as a "uniting force" for both the campus and for alumni.

"We really feel like this has already raised the visibility of HBU, both around here and nationally," he said. "This really is just part of the overall vision of what we want Houston Baptist University to be. It's not the only thing we're doing. But I think this is a big part of it.

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"Dr. Sloan's a very strong believer that athletics is a vehicle that publicizes and unites your university," Moniaci continued. "That's what we want this sport and our whole athletic department to be."

In mid-November, HBU accepted an invitation to join the Southland Conference, which includes such schools as Texas State University, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, Lamar and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The Huskies will begin playing football in the conference in 2014, while all the university's other sports will begin Southland competition in 2013.

Moniaci said HBU officials are discussing the possibility of playing a number of football games in 2013, but they don't yet know how many or against whom.

To accommodate the addition of football, HBU also has announced plans to build a football stadium. Initial plans are to put a field down on campus in such a way that a stadium can be built around it. Moniaci said that stadium construction most likely will be done in pieces as funds are available, but no timetable exists for when the facility would be complete.

The football program's launch at HBU comes as the university's trustees are exploring the possibility of changing the name for the 51-year-old university, a change that may result in "Baptist" being dropped from the university's name.

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In other HBU athletics-related news, the university in December acquired the Memorial Hermann Wellness Center, located adjacent to the HBU campus. The center, now called the Bradshaw Fitness Center, will have long-term implications for HBU's NCAA Division I athletic programs, according to a university news release.

Tim Ellsworth is editor of BPSports (www.bpsports.net) and director of news & media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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