Why Army Needs to Schedule Sam Houston State

Air Force gets to play Sam Houston State at the home of the Texans this Saturday. Army not playing the Bearkats there is a huge mistake

Army has never played at NRG Stadium
Source: Danny Wild/USA Today

Saturday will feel like 1984 again as Air Force will play at NRG Stadium, the home of the Texans for an exciting neutral site game against Sam Houston State in H-Town. Instead of capping a promising season in Houston as the Falcons did with a Bluebonnet Bowl appearance after an 11-1 finish in 1984, a trip to Houston is on the front end.

This weekend's Sam Houston State-Air Force game and the 2021 and 2022 Commanders' Classics show the Service Academies are still marquee programs on the national landscape. For this reason, Army and Sam Houston State need to schedule a game at NRG Stadium.

It is no secret that Army loves playing in Texas. With multiple Army bases spread throughout the Lone Star State, it is easy to see why. While most of Army's excursions into Texas have taken the Black Knights to San Antonio or the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the Black Knights also draw well in East Texas. The graph and table below show how popular of a draw Army was in their visits to Rice in 2008, 2015, and 2017.

Chart and graph of how Army’s boosted Rice’s average attendance figures
Source: Graph generated by author

While 2008's Army-Rice game saw attendance just below the Owls' season average at Rice Stadium, 2015 and 2017's matchups shattered Rice's average home attendance.

Both Sam Houston State and Army benefit from a game at NRG Stadium. Like Air Force, Army can draw a respectable crowd and generate significant revenue for Sam Houston State. Army gets to play in an NFL stadium they have never played in and has a recruiting counterpitch to Navy who plays in NFL stadiums against Notre Dame every other year.

Whether Army stays independent or not, it is hard to deny that the increased flexibility to schedule non-conference games like this makes independence worthwhile. For Army fans to take pride in a "national schedule" and Army failing to schedule games like a game against Sam Houston State at NRG Stadium is a travesty.

The national schedule argument only holds weight when the games spark interest nationwide. A clash with the Bearkats at "The House That Andre Johnson Built" does just that.

Army already let Air Force beat them to the punch in scheduling Sam Houston State at NRG Stadium. However, it is still not too late to make this game happen. A game against Sam Houston State at NRG Stadium cements Army's place as one of the Group of Five's national brands.