By Cheval John
When Bobby Williams took over as the athletic director 17 years ago at Sam Houston State, his vision was to make the department a first class organization that wins championships and excel in the classroom.
Those goals came to fruition and then some.
SHSU has won a combined 23 Southland Conference (SLC) titles, 17 NCAA playoff appearances that includes the school’s first ever national title at the Division I level (SHSU Bowling 2014) and two consecutive Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Finalist (Football 2011, 2012) and four Southland Commissioner’s Cups (2005, 2006, 2007, 2013).
In addition, the combined GPA for entire athletic department for the 2013-14 school is 3.04.
The department have extended a new tradition for the “student-athletes” called, “The Night of Champions,” an event that is as close to the ESPY’s that highlights the teams that have either won a SLC title or in the case of the bowling team, a national championship; spotlight Bearkats who have made it the national spotlight; and the achievements in the classroom.
Even SLC commissioner Tom Burnett was there to present former Bearkat running back and future NFL draftee Timothy Flanders with the award of becoming the first Southland player to rush for over 5,000 career yards in the FCS and setting the career rushing mark in the conference.
Of course, they deserve the recognition because they have brought the city of Huntsville a first-class athletic events that is as close to a major professional sport franchise.
What I mean is that cities (with the exclusion of Green Bay) that want to be the home of a professional sports organization, must have a strong tax base in order to build a stadium; Have a significant amount of people (300,000 and over) in order to support the giant salaries and have a strong media presence.
That poses a strong problem for small cities/towns like Huntsville because they don’t have those elements.
That’s where college sports comes into play because all of the amenities like maintenence of facilities, etc. are the responsibilities of the athletic departments of universities that sponsors collegiate athletics.
With universities being tax exempt, it makes it easier for these smaller cities to focus on other matters.
In the case of Huntsville, Texas, they have gotten more recognition over the last three years because of the SHSU’s football team making consecutive runs at the FCS playoffs (2011, 2012, 2013) and the bowling team national title win against University of Nebraska.’
Those runs gave SHSU and the city of Huntsville, national exposure when they were featured on the ESPN family of networks that brought great name recognition like the major schools that always get the national spotlight during the regular season.
Mr. Williams can say that his vision came to fruition.
They are all champions because of the way they carried themselves in the midst of the pressures of being a full-time student and a full-time athlete.
By Cheval John
If someone sees the success of a person, organization and/or sports teams, one of the first things that come out of their mouths is that they were lucky.
What they don’t see is the years of blood, sweat and tears that the person, organization, and/or sport team went through in order to put themselves in position to succeed.
Here are two examples of how a little preparation went a long way for these guys and how you can apply the same mindset to your life:
Sam Houston State Bowling Team
The Sam Houston State (SHSU) Bowling Team won the NCAA Division I National Championship in the Cleveland suburb of Wickliffe, Ohio about two weeks ago after defeating defending champion, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 4-2 in the best of seven baker format.
The championship was the first ever for SHSU since moving up to the Division I level in 1986.
What is more impressive is that the bowling program is in it’s fourth year of existence and the team have made two previous appearances in the NCAA Championships prior to winning it all this year.
The team contributed their success to a second half surge in the 2013-14 season that allowed them to make their third trip to the championships.
However, I honestly believe that it was what head coach Brad Hagen did before the season even began: Held a pre-season exhibition with Texas Southern and Prarie View A&M at the Huntsville Lanes Center in Huntsville, Texas.
Even though, his team didn’t do well in the exhibition, it allowed them to see their weaknesses and correct the mistakes before the season began.
That little preparation by coach Hagen is what made the difference in helping the team secure the school’s first NCAA Division I National Title.
Diane Gottsman, owner of The Protocol School of Texas, shared a story at the Etiquette Dinner recently held at SHSU about a young college student, who she didn’t identify, so that is why I call her Jane Doe.
Mrs. Gottsman said that Jane Doe came up to her after one of her dinners and wowed her after Ms. Doe explained to her in detail about her background, what she said in her blog, www.dianegottsman.com her appearances on television, you name it.
Mrs. Gottsman added that even though “Ms. Doe” will be graduating from college two years from now, she is willing to wait for her because of the “extra preparation” that she did before the dinner.
In effect, Ms. Doe don’t have to worry about finding a career after graduating because she has already secured her first with a nationally recognized etiquette expert in Mrs. Gottsman.
So you see the two examples of how a little preparation has led to the success of the SHSU Bowling Team and “Jane Doe.”
You really don’t have an excuse anymore on why you can’t succeed in life.
If you go out, work hard and smart, and even put out the “extra preparation,” then you will achieve the success that you dream of.
By Cheval John
The Houston Symphony is one of the most recognizable orchestra in America and the world.
Every year, they perform concerts for thousands of people in the Houston area.
In their 100th year of operation, the Houston Symphony is getting better than ever.*
Recently, they held a concert in Huntsville, Texas.
You are reading that right, Huntsville, a small city located an hour north of Houston and has a population of close to 40,000.
You might be wondering: “Why on earth would they travel north to give a concert in Huntsville?”
The main reason is because of the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center (GPAC), located on the campus of Sam Houston State University (SHSU) in Huntsville.
Opened in 2010, the GPAC is an 100,000 square foot building that houses the 800-seat David and Grettle Payne Concert Hall, where the Symphony performed, the 175-seat Recital Hall and the 160-seat Dance Theater.
Emily Binetti, Marketing Coordinator for SHSU’s College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication, says that the GPAC is a game-changer for the School of Music and the city of Huntsville.
“I think the School of Music is able to bring in more world-class guest artist like the Houston Symphony because of the beautiful Gaertner Performing Arts Center facility that we now have,” Binetti said. “The event that they just performed here, is an example of the kind of cultural offerings that we’re able to bring to the Huntsville community here at Sam Houston.”
The residents of Huntsville and the university community got an opportunity to hear the Symphony’s rendition of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” a 1723 violin concertos that is the most recognizable piece in the world.
The concert was led by violin soloist, Frank Huang.
Huang, a faculty member at Rice University, has performed around the world with orchestras that includes: the Cleveland and Genoa Orchestras, the NDR Radio Philharmonic of Hannover, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Saint Paul and Amadeus! Chamber Orchestras and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.*
In addition, Huang made national appearance on NPR’s Performance Today, Good Morning America and CNN’s American Morning.
You would even be more surprised to find out that it was the Houston Symphony’s third time to perform in Huntsville in the last four years.
My guess is that they love the quality sound of GPAC’s concert hall.
One thing is certain: It’s a huge benefit for Huntsville residents because they get a quality performance from one of the most recognizable orchestras in the world at nearly half the price.
It also elevates Huntsville as a hidden treasure for the performing arts.
“In the past 20 years, Huntsville’s arts scene has grown tremendously, especially for a small community like we have,” Binetti said. “The Houston Symphony concert is a good example of the events that Huntsville wants more of and that the School of Music is able to provide.”
*Both videos are courtesy of Houston Symphony Orchestra
By Cheval John
Over 5,100 students, faculty and staff were not disappointed with the Sammypalooza Concert featuring Capital Cities and Wiz Khalifa.
Recently, the concert was held at the Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum on the campus of Sam Houston State University (SHSU) in Huntsville, Texas.
Sammypalooza is a event that brings well known acts to the student body of SHSU.
Presenters who were part of the yearly event includes Ludacris, Mike Epps, Nick Kroll, Gabriel Iglesias, Aziz Ansari and Jack Ingram.
Many students were standing in line for about three hours hoping to get a front stage view of the artists.
Once inside, the atmosphere was rocking.
SHSU student Kelly Whitaker, who was covering the event for www.backstageol.com, said that having both Capital Cities and Wiz Khalifa was not only great for the university, but for the city of Huntsville.
“People come to this school thinking that it’s a prison city,” Whitaker said. “But then they see the campus and surrounding areas and think differently.”
It took months for SHSU’s Department of Student Activities to plan the concert.
The staff sent out a survey to the thousands of students using Facebook to get their input on who they wanted to see at the event.
Once that was decided, they got the ball rolling and from there, they worked with Ed Chatal, Associate Director of Facilities of Recreational Sports, who oversees the Coliseum in coordinating the stage setup and take down once the concert was over.
Before Capital Cities stepped on stage, the song, “Don’t Know Much” by Aaron Neville and Linda Rondstadt was played to get everyone in the mood.
From that moment, the alternative rock band from Los Angeles belted out the tunes including their main hit, “Safe and Sound.”
Then the atmosphere got really electric when Wiz Khalifa came on stage and performed his many songs including “Work Hard, Play Hard,” and “Black and Yellow.”
One thing that I took away from the concert is that it is getting better year after year and that many people are discovering the hidden gems that the university community and the city has to offer.
SHSU student Hailey Porter, who was one of the “lucky” ones to get a front stage view of the artists, seems to agree.
“I think he (Wiz Khalifa) was a great choice,” Porter said. “He’s a great performer. The environment was awesome.”
By Cheval John
When Sylvester Stallone presented the script for “Rocky” to John Avildsen back in the 70s, he did not know what to expect.
Avildsen had turned down then unknown Stallone, two previous times.
Fortunately, Avildsen decided to direct the movie and because of it, he won the Oscar and was able to share his successful career with the capacity audience in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center (GPAC) on the campus of Sam Houston State University (SHSU) in Huntsville, Texas.
Avildsen’s appearance was part of SHSU’s President’s Speaker Series, a yearly event that transpires in the fall and spring semesters which brings prominent leaders to campus to share a message that will have a tremendous impact on students and the Huntsville community.
The Speakers Series is underwritten by the late Lu Ellen Gibbs and have included prominent guests like David Robinson, former Astros owner Drayton McLane, Debbie Fields and many more.
This semester’s event was produced by Priority One Public Relations, an on-campus public relations service staffed by students, who provide the on-campus colleges, departments, organizations and community with PR services.
Though it is a class, the 11 students that filled this semester’s Priority One team gain practical experience on the day-to-day operations of a public relations firm that will give them a leg up in the job market after they graduate.
It really was an first class event because of the hard work and dedication that Priority One and the staff from SHSU’s Office of the President did.
Avildsen got a first-hand view of the quality production when musicians from SHSU’s School of Music played the “Rocky” intro while he and moderators, Dr. Dana Gibson, President of SHSU and Peter Roussel, Warner Chair of Journalism in the Department of Mass Communication and Priority One’s advisor, was walking towards center stage to commence the event.
From there, Avildsen shared how being persistent in achieving your goals are important and that you have to start somewhere to get the ball rolling.
He said that anyone who has the desire to become a film director have the tools and technology to do it.
Avildsen added that all they need to do is get a camera and shoot anything that interests them.
From the overwhelming success of Rocky in 1976, Avildsen directed many more successful movies.
None more successful than “The Karate Kid,” a 1984 film that went on to become another blockbuster that cemented his legacy in Hollywood and allowed the late Pat Morita to earn an Academy Award nomination.
Avildsen’s life and career is documented in the book, “The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Other Underdogs, that was written by Tom Garrett, Associate Professor in SHSU’s Department of Mass Communication and Larry Powell.
The city of Huntsville, Texas and the SHSU community, who in a sense is an underdog, benefitted greatly from listening to Avildsen, who made a career in depicting underdogs that overcame obstacles to become successful.
As for the Priority One students, they will never forget the opportunity they received in producing an event for an Oscar winner.
Just ask Taryn Gann, one of the members of Priority One.
“I’ve learned throughout Priority One that team work is a huge factor,” Gann said. “I feel that our team at Priority One has definitely come together and we have put our heart and soul into this.”
“No college student can say that I have put on an event for a Oscar winner,” Gann added. “The experience is definitely rewarding.”