The Bearkat Champions Fund, now the sole fundraising arm for Sam Houston athletics kicks off its inaugural “Proud to be a Bearkat” membership drive this month.

Looking to set the stage for an era of even stronger intercollegiate athletic success in all sports, the Bearkat Champions Fund will build upon the momentum established by SHSU’s back-to-back NCAA Division I Football National Championship finals appearances.

“The momentum of athletics at Sam Houston right now is contagious,” Sam Houston State University President Dana Gibson said. “Our success in the past two years has been reflected in growth in all aspects of the University community. It’s time for everyone to show they are Proud to be a Bearkat.”

The inaugural Bearkat Champions Fund Drive began this week with a mailing to more than 6,000 past donors, season ticket purchasers and select alumni. The goal for the fund drive is to raise $500,000 to benefit all of the 350 student-athletes who represent Sam Houston on the playing field.

“We believe we are on the verge of something special at Sam Houston,” Bearkat Director of Athletics Bobby Williams said. “But to realize our vision and continue our success on the field and in the classroom, Sam Houston State needs the help of our community, alumni, lettermen and friends. We are committed to providing our student-athletes with exceptional educational and athletic opportunities designed for their long-term personal development.”

The fund drive will include Bearkat Champions specials events in the coming year such as the Night of Champions celebration and the Bearkat Invitational Golf Tournament at Sterling Country Club at Houston National next spring.

“Donations and external revenues already account for one-third of the annual athletic operating budget at Sam Houston,” Williams said. “For our football program to continue as an FCS power and set the stage to build on the success of our all sports, Sam Houston must generate from seven to eight million additional dollars in external revenues each year.”

The athletic success that has generated so much national exposure for Sam Houston State University and Huntsville (eight ESPN national telecasts in two years) costs money. Expenses are on the rise.

The Bearkat Champions Fund will help provide important benefits for the athletic program including fifth-year and summer scholarships, equipment upgrades and sports enrichment opportunities.

“Everyone who is Proud to be a Bearkat is crucial in order for Sam Houston to achieve new heights both athletically and as a university,” Williams said.

Sam Houston athletics also is announcing the implementation of The Bearkat Champions Fund Priority Points System to enhance the rewards of being Proud to Be a Bearkat.

The priority points system recognizes the Bearkats’ most loyal supporters and season ticket holders by awarding points for each contribution made to Sam Houston Athletics.

Points are accumulated when a Bearkat makes a gift to the athletics general fund or to a specific sports enrichment fund. Rewards include priority for season tickets, parking NCAA playoffs, premium games (versus Texas A&M or LSU, for example) and special invitation-only events.

Members score two points for each $100 donated to the Academic Fund; one for each $200 donated to a sport’s Enrichment Funds; one for each season ticket purchased (all sports) and a point for each consecutive year of giving.

To kick off the priority points program, donors and season ticket holders from the past three seasons already have been awarded points for their participation.

“There has never been a more important time to become part of the momentum that is sweeping Sam Houston sports into the national spotlight,” Williams said. “It is time to become a Bearkat Champion and to encourage your friends and family to do so as well. I’m Proud to Be A Bearkat. Show you are too.”

The Bearkat Champions Fund Drive is being conducted in cooperation with Sam Houston State University Advancement.

Individuals or businesses can show they are “Proud to be a Bearkat” by going online to to contribute or by contacting J. R. Ohr at (936) 294-2362 or Ashten Ackerman at (936) 294-2364.