Jacob Cheatham helped get the Miami High School football program back on the right track.
Now he will do it again, but this time with a program that is starting from scratch.
Cheatham has signed with Oklahoma Baptist University – which is bringing football back after a seven-decade hiatus.
The program, headed by former Southmoore coach Chris Jensen, will begin play in 2013.
“It’s good to be a part of something that is starting from the ground up,” Cheatham said Thursday morning prior to signing his national letter of intent with the Shawnee school that is best known for its men's basketball and track and field programs.
“To help start a whole new program and be a part of something like that is really cool,” Cheatham said.
The school will compete in the NAIA and will be a member of the Central States Football League, which currently includes Bacone College, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Langston University, Texas College, Southwestern Assemblies of God University and Southern Nazarene University.
Wayland Baptist will join the league starting in 2012.
In its final season of play in 1940, the Bison went 8-2-1 and won an All Oklahoma Collegiate Conference championship. The program was 109-71 with two conference titles
OBU beat Arkansas 6-0 in 1925.
In December 1940, then-OBU President John W. Raley, citing a continued fiscal deficit for the football program, asked trustees to drop the sport. The board complied, focusing on other initiatives as the university moved out of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl days.
The school started studying the feasibility of adding football during the 2006-07 school year, but opted to postpone a decision.
“We looked at some sister institutions to see what we could learn from them,” OBU Athletic Director Norris Russell said in a story that appeared in the Winter 2011 edition of OBU Magazine. “Several small Christian colleges have added football in the last 10 years and it has been a sport that brings in a large number of male students and has a very positive impact on student life.”
The story said it is estimated that the addition of football, men's and women's swimming and women's lacrosse will add more than 170 student-athletes to the campus and generate more than $750,000 in net revenue.
“The student buzz is phenomenal,” OBU assistant coach Ra'Mon Brown said. “Football T-shirts in the campus bookstore sold out in two days. None of us (on the coaching staff) have been able to get one yet. They are just as excited as we are.”
Cheatham said he already had been looking at attending Oklahoma Baptist academically, then when he got a chance to continue playing football, it was a no brainer.
“I really took hold of that and tried to make it happen,” Cheatham said.
Brown said this fall, players will practice Monday through Thursday, with some intersquad scrimmages on Fridays.
“We'll let them go on the weekends and let them have their fun, then get ready for 2013,” said Brown, who previously had been at East Central University in Ada.
“This is very exciting,” he said. “You get to put your imprint on a program. Its a great situation.”
“Any time you are able to start another program in Oklahoma, it's nice that we have a place for more of our kids to go,” Miami head coach Rick Woods said.” In this area, it's either Division I or Division II because we only have the one juco. You used to have two or three over on this side and now there’s only one. You don’t have a place for those kids who aren’t Division I to go play.
“It’s a great opportunity for him. He will get a great education, more than anything, plus mom and dad can still go watch him.”
Cheatham's dad, James, is defensive coordinator at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
Jacob Cheatham caught 27 passes for 175 yards during the 2011 season. He also rushed for 186 yards.
He had been the Dogs' quarterback before going down with a broken leg midway through his junior season.
“They are talking about using me as a slot receiver, kinda what I played here, then maybe a little bit at running back,” Cheatham said.
Cheatham fills the bill for what the Bison staff is looking for: “They are looking for guys who are kinda like me, maybe lacking a little in height and things like that, but still have ability to play.”
“Even though he was undersized, we got him out and got him into space,” Woods said. “I am sure they will do the same thing. You see a lot of guys who make millions a year who aren’t but an inch or two taller than he is. You can measure height and weight, but you can’t measure heart. Jacob has a big heart. He will be successful wherever he goes.”