C-USA Snapshot: Sam Houston State Bearkats

Elliott T. Bowers Stadium (14,000) is the home of the Bearkats football program.

(This is the fourth of a four-part series looking at an overview of the four new Conference USA teams joining the league July 1).


Sam Houston State University

Location: Huntsville, Texas

Mascot: Bearkats

Enrollment: 14,352

Founded: 1879

Former Conference:  Western Athletic (2021-2023)

Notable Alums: Dan Rather (newscaster), Walt Anderson (NFL Referee), Josh McCown (NFL veteran; brother of Luke McCown), John H. Hannah, Jr. (former US federal judge)

NCAA Sponsored Men’s Programs (7): Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field

NCAA Sponsored Women’s Programs (10): Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field, Volleyball

Notes: Sam Houston State joins C-USA after two years in the Western Athletic Conference, following a 34-year affiliation with the Southland Conference … SHSU’s seven Southland Conference Commissioner’s Cups are the most in league history … Sam Houston State won the 2020 national football championship on the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level … 2023 will only be the Bearkats second year as a FBS member in football …

Athletic Budget: $20,600,000

About Sam Houston State University (from SHSU.edu):

Named for Texas’s greatest hero, Sam Houston State University (SHSU) continually honors its historical roots through academic excellence. For more than 140 years, SHSU has been preparing students for meaningful lives of achievement. Its motto, “The measure of a Life is its Service,” resonates among its approximately 21,612 students, eight colleges and well beyond its Huntsville roots.

In U.S. News and World Report, SHSU is the best in Texas in ‘Top Performers on Social Mobility’ and No. 6 in the ‘2022 Best Colleges in Texas.’ Sam Houston State offers top-ranked degree programs and is No. 3 among the ‘Best Valued Online Colleges’ by TexasOnlineColleges.com. Nationally, SHSU is among the top 100 colleges and universities for Hispanic students, according to Hispanic Outlook on Education Magazine.

The SHSU College of Osteopathic Medicine is only the third college of osteopathic medicine in Texas. Its mission is to train physicians who will serve the healthcare needs of rural and underserved Texans.

Service to self and others is paramount at SHSU and reflected in all university organizations and programs. In fact, the university was named to USA Today’s Top 50 in the U.S. for “commitment to civic engagement and global awareness,” in addition to being classified a “Community Engaged” by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education. This honor, bestowed to only 311 public institutions nationwide, acknowledges the university’s significant commitment to service.

In 2022, SHSU was designated a Doctoral University of High Research Activity by The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Sam Houston State is one of only two universities that currently hold this research status within the Texas State University System (TSUS).

The Bearkats compete in 17 NCAA Division I sports in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). SHSU moved from the Southland Conference to the WAC in 2021 and subsequently accepted an invitation to Conference USA for membership in Fall 2023. The conference membership move requires a two-year NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision transition to be completed by Fall 2024.

With SHSU’s array of recognized academic programs, exceptional student support services, volunteer opportunities and more, Bearkats are not only well-prepared to think and respond to the workforce needs of a rapidly changing world but stand ready to serve their community.

Through those founding years, students and faculty were inspired to influence the moral and ethical course of America. Subsequently, the school’s name officially changed to Liberty Baptist College in 1975, and the colors were changed to red, white, and blue in 1976. The college achieved accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges in 1980.

By 1985, the school had become recognized as an accredited university, adding programs and garnering recognition from both mainstream culture and the world of academia. Liberty also pioneered a distance learning program that year, launching what is now known as Liberty University Online.

With the passing of the founder in 2007, his son, Jerry Falwell Jr., became chancellor and president of the university. At the 2007 Commencement ceremony, just days after his father’s passing, then Chancellor Falwell proclaimed, “We have prepared for this transition for 15 years or more. All is well at Liberty.”

Liberty’s journey has been one of facing giants, making the impossible possible, watching fervent prayer move mountains, and Training Champions for Christ.