The University of Incarnate Word will be the opponent as Sam Houston State University celebrates its 27th annual Bearkat Family Weekend Friday through Sunday, Sept. 7-9.

The Kats' football game with the Cardinals Saturday at 6 p.m. at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium will be the season opener for the Southland Conference champion Sam Houston squad that rolled to a 14-1 record, a top ranking of No. 1 in the nation and the NCAA Division I national championship finals in 2011.

The football team owns a 22-4 record on Bearkat Family Weekend since the first celebration of the event in 1986. But football is not the only attraction for Sam Houston families this year.

When SHSU welcomes everyone "to the Fabulous Huntsvegas, Texas" for this year's Las Vegas-themed event, Bearkats can show off the campus, introduce faculty and administrators to their families, check out all that SHSU has to offer and even attend a football game as part of the traditional offerings.

But this year, the Dean of Students' Office is also raising the stakes with several new events that will encourage families to attend all three days and deal out a host of prizes, according to Chelsea Smith, assistant dean of students for parent relations and special programs.

"Since we call it 'family weekend' we wanted to offer a weekend full of activities. This year we have special events for alumni, spirit events for the first home game, and new family activities to encourage families to make it a weekend event," she said. "Families will get to spend quality time with their student and really get to see how they are thriving on campus. Students get to show off what they know about SHSU and allow their parents to kick back and have fun while they are the 'hosts' of the weekend."

After touring campus on Friday (Sept. 7), families with a "Bearkat legacy" can mingle and network with other alumni during the inaugural Alumni Legacy Reception from 4-6 p.m. on the second-floor patio of the John R. Ragsdale Visitor and Alumni Center.

The reception will be open to anyone who has a family history of SHSU attendance, be it parents, grandparent, cousins or even nephews.

"We decided to team with the Alumni Relations Office this year to host a Legacy Reception because we want to honor the tradition that Sam Houston has to offer and connect those students who had family members attend an opportunity to meet and greet one another. It's kind of like a homecoming reunion for legacies," Smith said. "People that attend the event will be able to mix and mingle with SHSU administrators and faculty/staff while enjoying signature Bearkat drinks and hors d'oeuvres with other Bearkat Legacy families."

Following the reception, Bearkats and families can participate in the first Family Weekend Pep Rally, featuring Bearkat football players, the Bearkat Marching Band and spirit squads, at 7 p.m. in Bearkat Plaza.

Tickets for Sam Houston State football are available now online at or at the SHSU athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House in the south end zone of Bowers Stadium. Ticket office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The ticket office telephone number is (936) 294-1729.