HUNTSVILLE, Texas — 2023 marks a year of change for the Sam Houston football program with the Bearkats beginning their first year as an FBS program and member of Conference USA. One of the biggest changes for the Bearkats starts with the schedule.
On Tuesday, C-USA announced the conference schedule, and it will have a very different look. This season, the Bearkats will play five, midweek games including a trio of Wednesday night matchups during the month of October.
"One of the exciting aspects of this new schedule is the national exposure this will give to our program each week," said Bobby Williams, SHSU director of athletics. "While we have benefited greatly from playing each week on ESPN+ for the last six years, the opportunities for national television coverage have been few and far between. This new schedule format will allow our program to be featured nationally throughout the season."
C-USA membership approved a linear television-friendly scheduling format for football that sees all October league matchups played on midweek evenings. C-USA's broadcast partners will share the October weeknight football games on linear television across CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Following the season opener at Brigham Young University on Sept. 2, the Kats will continue playing their annual game at NRG Stadium, replacing the Battle of the Piney Woods game by taking on Air Force, followed by their first trip to the University of Houston since 2005. Both games will provide an opportunity for Houston area fans, students, and the university's largest alumni base to experience Sam Houston football closer to home.
Conference play will begin on Thursday night, Sept. 28 when the Kats welcome Jacksonville State for the home opener. It will be the 12th all-time matchup between the Kats and the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks last visited Bowers Stadium in 2021, where Sam Houston secured a 42-7 victory.
The Bearkats are accustomed to playing games on Thursday nights. "The Thursday night games were always one of the most attended games of the year for our students," Williams said. "With this new schedule, we have an opportunity to create an atmosphere at Bowers Stadium that our students can really come out and be a big part of building."
In addition, the Bearkats will play three Wednesday night games. The first Wednesday night game will take place at New Mexico State, the first meeting between the two programs. The Kats then head back to Huntsville for two home games against Florida International (Oct. 11) and UTEP (Oct. 25). The game against FIU is also a first-time matchup.
The Kats return home in early November as they get back to a more traditional schedule with a Saturday game at Bowers, followed by a pair of C-USA road games: Louisiana Tech on Nov. 11 and Western Kentucky on Saturday, Nov. 18. They will wrap up the regular season at home against Middle Tennessee on Nov. 25.
It is important to note that all games are subject to date changes and some dates may move in the coming weeks to accommodate national television selections. A schedule of televised games will be released later.
The Bearkats are in their second year of transitioning to become an FBS program. After playing a shortened spring 2021 season, a 10-game regular season in the fall of 2021 and then nine-games this past fall, 2023 will be the first full regular season for Sam Houston football since 2019.