I will fully admit that this time two years ago, I had no idea where Lamar University was located. Not until I applied for a job at The Beaumont Enterprise, a gig I eventually landed and stayed at for nine months before I was hired by The Oklahoman.
So these random connections between Oklahoma State football players transferring to LU — wide receiver Kevin Johnson, defensive lineman Joe Okafor and now running back Herschel Sims — have been odd for me personally. And I’m not at all surprised if you had not (or had barely) heard of that school before those former Cowboys started taking their talents to Beaumont, Texas.
Here’s a quick primer on LU. It restarted its football program in 2010 after a 20-plus year hiatus. It plays in the Southland conference, the same league as schools like Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin. Beaumont is located about 85 miles east of Houston.
So why has that become a popular destination for transferring OSU players? Here are a couple reasons.
This isn’t rocket science. If a player at a major Division I program is buried on the depth chart, transferring to a smaller program where he will get more time on the field can be attractive. Especially at a Football Championship Subdivision school, where the player will not have to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. I haven’t seen enough of Okafor to know how much of a factor he will be for LU, but I guarantee Johnson and Sims will make a big impact at the FCS level. Pending the results of Sims’ legal situation, of course.
Chance to be a part of a rebuilding program
Lamar’s location in Texas means passionate football fans (Google the Port Neches-Groves High School stadium and the Thomas Center in Beaumont), but the school is trying to reenergize a college football fan base that had its team taken away for 21 years. It could be very gratifying to be a part of that rejuvenation. LU has a shiny new stadium and athletic complex, which I toured last year and was very impressed with. Not at the level as the House that Boone Built, but still top-notch facilities, especially for an FCS school. The school also recently started its women’s soccer program, and softball will be on the way in 2013. The commitment to athletics is there.
All three players transferring to Lamar are from Texas. Johnson and Okafor are both from the Houston area. Something to be said for going back home — or at least closer to it.
Here are some LU folks who have ties to OSU and the state of Oklahoma, something that could aid in the recruiting of transferring players:
*Assistant head coach/secondary coach Allen Johnson was the quality control coach at OSU in 2006. He also played at Central Oklahoma.
*Defensive line coach Carey Bailey was the defensive line coach at OSU in 2004.
*The most recognizable connection could actually be Billy Tubbs. He is originally from Tulsa and, of course, is most known in these parts for his time as the OU men’s basketball coach. Tubbs has spent more than 25 years at LU as the men’s basketball coach, athletic director and special assistant to the president.
*LU director of football operations is Chuck Langston, the former OU center and Central Oklahoma head coach.
*Offensive line coach Larry Kueck’s first coaching job was as the offensive line coach at Southwest Oklahoma.
I’m interested to see if Lamar continues to become a popular landing spot for OSU transfers. I’d imagine it will be if LU starts to win consistently and word-of-mouth becomes an even bigger factor.
As we’ve mentioned several times before, LU comes to Stillwater to play in 2013. What would normally be considered a dud of a nonconference game does have some intrigue now.