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February 20, 2014

SHSU FOOTBALL — Bearkats open college football season in new ‘FCS Kickoff”

HUNTSVILLE — Sam Houston State will open the 2014 college football season with a nationally-televised contest on ESPN at Eastern Washington Saturday, Aug. 23.

The new “FCS Kickoff” is the only college game of the day. The Bearkats and the Eagles will open ESPN’s 2014 college football coverage with kickoff at 2:30 p.m. Central Time on ESPN.

Eastern Washington ranked No. 3 in last year’s FCS final polls while Sam Houston was No. 13. The Kats defeated EWU 49-34 during the regular, handing the Eagles its only regular-season loss to an FCS opponent in 2013.

“FCS conferences and member institutions are an important part of the overall fabric of collegiate athletics and ESPN’s programming schedule,” said Brent Colborne, ESPN director of programming and acquisitions. “We regularly talk with our league partners on opportunities for increased exposure and expansion of our content offerings. The FCS Kickoff is one result that will further showcase the quality and depth of FCS football to our national audience.”

Three of the last four years, either Sam Houston or Eastern Washington has been a participant in the NCAA Division I Championship Finals in Frisco, Texas. EWU won the national championship in 2011 while Sam Houston was a finalist in both 2012 and 2013.

“To have Sam Houston playing on a national stage once again in an ESPN national telecast is such an opportunity for both the University and the community,” SHSU director of athletics Bobby Williams said. “Ten times in the past three years our football team has been featured on the ESPN family of networks. That recognition has done so much for Huntsville and our institution. We greatly appreciate the work by the Southland Conference office in making this happen for us.”

The matchup in Cheney, Wash., features to FCS national powers that have a history of explosive meetings. Sam Houston and Eastern Washington have met twice in the NCAA playoffs with the Bearkats winning 35-34 in the 2004 FCS quarterfinals and 45-42 in the 2012 semifinals.

“The Southland Conference is honored to be a part of the first FCS Kickoff event on ESPN, and we appreciate the network’s selection of Sam Houston for the inaugural game,” league commissioner Tom Burnett said.  “For a number of years, a number of key stakeholders have been working diligently to enhance the awareness of the Division I FCS, and the efforts of ESPN with this new event will be another way this happens.”

The Southland Conference is the host of the NCAA Division I championship game at Frisco. Each of the past three years the game has been a sellout.

“It’s exciting to be the first game in the country on ESPN,” Sam Houston head football coach K. C. Keeler said. “To face a perennial national power like Eastern Washington is going to be a challenge. Our football team will be looking forward to the opportunity to test themselves on a national level.”

The Aug. 23 game represents the earliest season start in 98 years of Sam Houston football. The telecast will be the first in an extensive schedule of FCS coverage across multiple ESPN platforms in 2014.  The 2013 FCS season included 58 regular-season games exclusively on ESPN3; all 23 games of the FCS Championship on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3; College GameDay Built by The Home Depot originating from North Dakota State; and multiplatform coverage of matchups against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs.

ESPN’s coverage of the FBS – the most extensive among media networks with more than 400 games – will begin with matchups across multiple platforms on Thursday, Aug. 28, and conclude with exclusive telecasts of the inaugural College Football Playoff. Schedule details are being finalized.

Along with the announcement of the FCS Kickoff Game with Eastern Washington, Sam Houston also unveiled all but one date for its 2014 football schedule.

Following the trip to Cheney, Washington, Aug. 23, Sam Houston will play host to Alabama State on Saturday, Aug. 30 at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium. Saturday, Sept. 6, the Kats will face LSU at Baton Rouge, La.

Sam Houston is in the process of completing negotiations for another home game on either Saturday, Sept. 13 or Saturday, Sept. 20.

The 2014 Southland Conference schedule sees Sam Houston hosting games at Bowers Stadium against McNeese Saturday, Oct. 11; Abilene Christian Saturday, Oct. 25 and Central Arkansas Saturday, Nov. 2.

The Bearkats and the SFA Lumberjacks will duel in the 89th “Battle of the Piney Woods” at Reliant Stadium in Houston Saturday, Nov. 1.

Road Southland games take the SHSU football team to Lamar Saturday, Sept. 27; Northwestern State Saturday, Oct. 18; Incarnate Word Saturday, Nov. 8; and Houston Baptist Saturday, Nov. 15.

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All proceeds from the Team Big George Wiffleball Tournament will go to George Ancira, above, to support him in his battle with cancer.

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