ST. LOUIS – Missouri Baptist University has become the first NAIA institution in St. Louis to sponsor football in recent years.
The Spartans launched their program with the hiring of Jason Burianek,a former defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator at McKendree University. The team will begin scrimmage in the fall of 2013 and regular-season play in 2014.
“It is a great opportunity to begin my coaching career at MBU. It is a great fit for me personally being in a great location and a school that is committed to athletics and being successful,” Burianek said.
Burianek came with a wealth of playing experience, in addition to years spent as both a position coach and as a coordinator. He played college football as a wide receiver at the University of Colorado under Rich Neuheisel in his freshman year, and then under Gary Barnett for the remainder of his college career.
After graduation, Burianek spent a few months as a graduate assistant under Barnett. Just months later, he became a member of the McKendree University coaching staff
“I think we really did our homework in the hiring process,” said Dr. Tom Smith, director of athletics at Missouri Baptist. “Jason is a Missouri Baptist kind of guy.”
There are currently three schools in St. Louis that have football programs (Lindenwood, McKendree and Washington University). Missouri Baptist will be the fourth from the area that will have football, and the only NAIA school on the Missouri side of the river.
“I want to get to know the inner workings of the University and the community as well as getting to know the coaches in the St. Louis area,” Burianek said. “There are many great high school coaches in the area that will be critical in helping us recruit the great athletes here.”
Over the course of the next year and a half, Missouri Baptist expects to recruit more than 100 new student-athletes for football alone. The university also plans to expand the current cheerleading program and create a pep band.
The University is in a season of prolonged growth. Enrollment of traditional students on MBU’s main campus has increased by nearly 20 percent in the past four years, and the residential population has increased more than 40 percent in the same span of time, according to Terry Dale Cruse, vice president of enrollment services.
Last year, the University opened its state-of-art Sports and Recreation Complex, a 49,000 square foot facility that includes a 1,000 seat gymnasium, a suspended indoor track, state-of-the-art training and fitness centers and new classrooms. Currently, the second phase of “Spartan Village,” a residential neighborhood, is underway, which will increase housing capacity by about 45 percent. Current on-campus housing is filled to 100-percent capacity and the new residence hall is expected to fill quickly, especially with the expected influx of new student-athletes.
Missouri Baptist is currently a member of the American Midwest Conference (AMC), which doesn’t support football. The University, however, reaffirmed its commitment to the AMC, stating that there are no plans to leave and that the AMC is its home. “We have enjoyed a great relationship with the AMC and changing conference affiliation does not make much sense for us,” Smith said.
The Missouri Baptist University Department of Athletics supports 25 varsity athletics programs and seven junior varsity sports. The University is a proud member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and is an NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Award winner.