HOUSTON -- It is a Texas school and it is going to hire Texas coaches and recruit Texas kids and for as long as Vic Shealy and his Texas-born wife are the first family of Houston Baptist University football, that's what it's going to be.
It's going to be Texas, Texas and Texas.
"We are a Texas football school," Shealy said.
So begins the branding of Houston Baptist football, which really, actually, truly exists now that it has hired the 50-year-old Shealy to coach a football team that, as yet, does not. Shealy was introduced Monday at a press conference on HBU's southwest Houston campus. HBU will play its first Southland Conference football game in 2014, and hopes to play football games by some other brand (club team?) next year.
"I want to play in '13," Shealy said.
So begins a grand adventure. As of Monday, HBU football consisted of Vic Shealy, and that's it. No stadium, no players, no assistants, no office. History begins now.
"We don't even know where the footballs are on this campus," athletic director Steve Moniaci said. "Because we don't have any."
For this reason, Moniaci said it was even more important to get the right fit than it would be at a program with some backstory. Shealy is the only existing definition of what Houston Baptist football means.
So let's take a look.
He grew up in Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama, the son of Dal Shealy, a football coach. Vic played quarterback at Liberty University, the evangelical Baptist school founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971, then transferred to Richmond, where he served on his father's coaching staff.
He got his undergraduate degree at Richmond and his master's degree at Baylor, then went on to coach at Mars Hill College, Austin Peay, Azusa Pacific, Air Force, UNLV, Richmond and Kansas. His best stop was Azusa Pacific, where he won a national championship. His worst was probably Kansas, where under Turner Gill he spent last season coordinating one of the worst defenses in the history of college football. The Jayhawks ranked 120th out of 120 FBS teams in both total defense and scoring defense.
That wasn't all his fault, though. The real defensive coordinator, Carl Torbush, had been diagnosed with cancer shortly before the season began, Shealy was thrust into the role on short notice and dealt a roster that for a variety of reasons that quickly led to Gill's ouster he is now the head coach at Liberty was physically unable to compete with Big 12 teams.
"He's groomed to be a head coach, just like his dad," Virginia coach Mike London said. "I know he will do a great job at Houston Baptist University."
That won't be the task at HBU anyway. The Southland Conference, which competes at the FCS level, comprises teams in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. With an enrollment of 2,567, Houston Baptist will be the conference's smallest school, about one-thirteenth as big as Texas State (34,113), which is the largest.
The league is an FCS power, typically sending multiple teams into the FCS playoffs. HBU made the transition from NAIA to Division I in 2007-08 and has been competing in the Great West Conference since 2008, so getting accepted into the Southland was a booster shot of legitimacy to a startup program.
The league was attractive to Shealy, but Houston Baptist was particularly compelling because of its location. Shealy called Houston, with its metropolitan area of six million people and deeply rooted football culture, the most fertile recruiting ground in the nation. This is not a secret, of course, and recruiters from far and wide pillage the city's football talent.
Even so, Shealy said, there are undiscovered pockets.
"There are some areas of this town, great population areas, that are under-recruited significantly," he said. "A lot of those 2A, 3A schools have a lot of good athletes."
HBU's first recruiting class will be heavy on transfers, junior college and otherwise. Shealy wants to have some experience on the field on day one and wants to avoid having to replace everybody in four years. He doesn't think a startup program will be as difficult a sell as it may sound.
"You'd be surprised how many kids wants an opportunity to play early in their career," he said.
But whoever they are, they're going to come from Texas and they'll be recruited by Texas recruiters and coached by Texas coaches who know Texas. More specifically Houston. More specifically inside the 610 loop. Shealy doesn't think he'll have to look far.
This is Texas, after all.