Football is back at Oklahoma Baptist University.
The team is preparing for its first active season since 1940, when President John W. Raley cited financial hardship as the reason for the program being cut.
A leadership class was brought in last year to get acclimated to the university, its academic program and to begin practicing.
Now, the players are a little more than a month away from their first game. The excitement is palpable, said coach Chris Jensen.
“They have been very mature about how they've handled this,” Jensen said. “They took advantage of our opportunity to practice and prepare this past year.
“Obviously, they're eager, as well as the coaching staff is very eager, to take the field against somebody else. There comes a point, where you get tired of hitting your teammates, and you want to go out there and perform against somebody else to see where you measure up.”
Jensen, a former OU offensive lineman, was hired after he spent time at Southmoore High School. Jensen was the first football coach for Southmoore, which began play in 2008. In their second year, the SaberCats were 11-2 and reached the Class 6A semifinals and Jensen was named Class 6A-1 Coach of the Year.
He and his coaching staff have made a concerted effort to recruit Oklahoma players. More than 110 are expected to report to camp, and 85 or more are from Oklahoma.
“We were committed to recruit Oklahoma kids, and we found that a lot of good football players were still available here in Oklahoma,” Jensen said.
OBU began looking into adding football in 2006-07, but decided to hold off on the sport. In 2010, the school looked into the matter again.
It was concluded that adding football, men's and women's swimming and women's lacrosse would add more than 170 student-athletes to the campus and generate more than $750,000 in net revenue.
“There's a fairly large demand and interest across the alumni base and the student body to have football on a campus,” Jensen said. “Some of the benefits of bringing football will be increased enrollment, excitement and national exposure.”
OBU football was 8-2-1 in its final season in 1940, winning an All Oklahoma Collegiate Conference championship. The program was 109-71 with two conference championships in 21 seasons of football.
One of the highlights from the previous era of football was a 6-0 victory over the University of Arkansas in 1925. Robert Mastin, grandfather of current Bison track coach Ford Mastin, had a school-record three interceptions to help OBU maintain the shutout.
Oklahoma Baptist, which will be a member of the Central States football league, will host its first football media day at 10 a.m. Aug. 10, at Bison Field at Eddie Hurt Athletic Center.
On Aug. 31, the Bison will host Southwestern College (Kan.) at “The Hurt,” OBU's new 2,900-seat, on-campus stadium.
OBU is asking for people connected with the previous era of Bison football — former players, managers, cheerleaders, and direct relatives — to contact assistant athletic director Brian Morris at 585-5411 or at email@example.com so the school can recognize them in an Opening Day ceremony.