Coaches and media selected Central Oklahoma to finish in the lower half of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
It is what it is if you ask second-year Bronchos football coach Nick Bobeck.
“We probably deserve to be there, too.” Bobeck said Wednesday afternoon at UCO Media Day at Wantland Stadium. “We're not shy about it. We finished 2-8 last year. It's just up to us to improve on that.”
UCO returns 14 starters, including all-conference running back Joshua Birmingham. But coaches tabbed UCO to finish 10th in the 14-team league. Media chose the Bronchos for 11th.
“We've had the honeymoon with the new coach,” Bobeck said. “We know where we want to be in this conference, but we're very excited.”
Like last season, all 10 of UCO's opponents will be within the conference. The opener is Sept. 5 at Missouri Southern in Joplin. The Lions are one of seven teams on Central Oklahoma's schedule that had winning records last season.
“We understand the kind of depth and size you have to have to play in this league,” Bobeck said. “We've had kids who have put more of an investment in the program — we've had 80 kids working out during the offseason. We're proud of what they've done so far.”
*Genny Stidham has resigned as softball coach after guiding Central Oklahoma to the NCAA Division II championship. Stidham is taking the head job at Texas Woman's, a Division II program in Denton.
UCO was 475-289-2 in 16 seasons under Stidham, who starred as a pitcher for the Bronchos in 1990 and 1991. She is a member of the UCO Athletics Hall of Fame.
“This was the hardest decision I've ever had to make,” Stidham said in a release. “Having the success we did here was something I'll cherish forever, especially the national championship team that will always be so special to me.”
Stidham, a native Texan, said the opportunity was too good to pass up.
“It's the best move for me and my family,” she said.
The Bronchos finished 51-11 this past season, capped off with a national title game win over Kutztown, Pa.
*Brandon Pierce, a starter for Nebraska, and Matt Brown, a reliever for Arkansas-Little Rock, will play baseball next season for Oklahoma Christian. Pierce was a weekend starter for the Cornhuskers, including eight games this past season. Brown is a former Stillwater High standout who can throw four pitches.
*Ridge Hoopii-Haslam had a few connections that led to a baseball scholarship at Oklahoma Baptist. The infielder from Hilo, Hawaii, is transferring from Luna Community College, where he batted .411 over 33 games. “The reason I chose OBU because it was such a great comfort having former teammates from the Islands who attended OBU,” he said. “They helped me get a phone call.”
*East Central had two players on the USA College Football Preseason Division II All-America teams. Senior defensive back Fred Gaines was a first-team selection, and junior defensive back Qumain Black was an honorable mention pick. Gaines led the Great American Conference last season with seven interceptions. Black had 51 tackles, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He added three interceptions.
*Oklahoma Baptist, which has its first Media Day on Saturday, continues to beef up its first football roster. The Bison signed defensive back Alexander Rizzo. The Owasso product won the school's “Hitman Award” during 2012.
BITS AND PIECES
*Cameron's volleyball team has been selected to finish eighth in the Lone Star Conference this season. ... Ashley Snow of Collinsville has signed with the OBU lacrosse team. ... Tuttle product Katie Gracey has signed to play softball at Mid-America Christian in Oklahoma City. The catcher helped the Tigers to a pair of state runner-up finishes.