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TEXAS A&M-COMMERCE FOOTBALL: Lions hosts Lincoln (Calif.) to begin DI era

8/29/2022 | Football
COMMERCE – A new era begins on Thursday night as the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team hosts the Lincoln (Calif.) Oaklanders inside Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium for the Lions’ first game as a Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program. Coming into Thursday, A&M-Commerce has won eight straight season openers.

WHO: A&M-Commerce vs. Lincoln (Calif.)
WHERE: Commerce | Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium
WHEN: Thursday, September 1 | 7 p.m.
RECORDS: This is the first game of the 2022 season for the Lions, while the Oaklanders fell 35-10 at Webber International (Fla.) last weekend in a game that ended at half time due to inclement weather.
RANKINGS: Neither team is ranked coming into this week.

LIVE AUDIO: Lion Sports Network – KETR 88.9 FM, Commerce (

After 90 successful years as charter members of the Lone Star Conference, the Lions begin a historic transition to NCAA Division I and the Southland Conference. This is the first time the Lions are changing conferences since 1931.
The Lions play an 11-game schedule during its first season in NCAA Division I FCS. The Lions are eligible to win the Soutland Conference, though they are not eligible for the NCAA Playoffs during the four-year transition period.
Winners of the 2017 NCAA Division II National Championship, the Lions’ football program also won the 1972 NAIA national championship. Other national championships have included men’s basketball (NAIA 1954-55), men’s golf (NAIA 1965) and men’s tennis (NAIA 1972 and 1978). Prominent student-athletes at A&M-Commerce have included NFL stars Harvey Martin, Wade Wilson and Dwight White, and noted U.S. Olympic medalist John Carlos.
Founded in 1889, Texas A&M-Commerce serves rural and urban Northeast Texas with distinction, consistently delivering on a promise that founder Professor William Leonidas Mayo made more than a century ago: “No industrious, ambitious youth shall be denied an education if I can prevent it.” To this day, the institution remains committed to its core mission: “Educate. Discover. Achieve.”
Formerly known as East Texas State University, the 2,100-acre Commerce campus provides many opportunities for students to learn and grow. The university offers more than 135 degree programs at the bachelor’s, masters and doctoral levels. A vibrant student life experience includes 14 competitive NCAA athletic teams, a thriving Greek system and more than 120 student organizations. Programs are delivered on site at the Commerce campus as well as in Dallas, Frisco, McKinney, Mesquite and Corsicana. A robust online academic menu of classes is also a point of distinction, and U.S. News & World Report has ranked several programs at Texas A&M University-Commerce among the best in the nation for 2021.
A member of The Texas A&M University System since 1996, the institution provides quality education to an inclusive community of diverse learners as one of the most affordable universities in East Texas. Students work with world-class professors who dedicate themselves to excellence in teaching and research. The university maintains strong relationships with local industries to create relevant academic programs and valuable internship and networking opportunities that prepare career ready graduates.
Serving nearly 12,000 students, Texas A&M-Commerce is a leader in competency-based education, and is the nation’s first institution to offer an accredited competency-based bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and organizational leadership. The agriculture program is also a national stand-out, featuring one of the only programs where students grow their own experimental crops on the university’s 1,500-acre farm. In addition, A&M-Commerce upholds a 130-year legacy as an exceptional teachers’ college, graduating more than 400 certified educators in 2019. In 2020, the university opened the 113,470-square-foot Nursing and Health Sciences Building, featuring a state-of-the-art simulation hospital.


Institution Offers Football?
Houston Baptist Yes
Incarnate Word Yes
Lamar Yes
McNeese State Yes
New Orleans No
Nicholls State Yes
Northwestern State Yes
Southeastern Louisiana Yes
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi No

Coming into Thursday, the Lions have won eight straight season openers and look to keep it going against the Oaklanders.
The current streak of eight straight season-opening wins is longest in program history.


2013 W, 51-6, Sul Ross State
2014 W, 98-20, East Texas Baptist
2015 W, 48-17, Adams State
2016 W, 40-28, at Delta State
2017 W, 8-7, at North Alabama
2018 W, 37-36 (OT), Texas A&M-Kingsville
2019 W, 93-0, Seleccion Nuevo Leon
2021 W, 12-6, at Colorado State-Pueblo

This is the first meeting between the Lions and the
Oaklanders, who sponsored a football program for the first time in 2021.

Senior linebacker Michael Noble (Orange, Calif.) is the Lions’ nominee for the prestigious Campbell Trophy, the academic version of the Heisman Trophy.
Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates for the awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. The class is selected each year by the NFF Awards Committee, which is comprised of a nationally recognized group of media, College Football Hall of Famers and athletics administrators.

This season begins coach David Bailiff‘s second stint as a head coach in the Southland Conference.
Bailiff was previously the head coach at Texas State from 2004-06 going 21-15, advancing all the way to the FCS Semifinals in 2005.

Based on our research, coach David Bailiff is the fourth-ever coach to qualify for the Division II playoffs, Division I-AA or FCS playoffs, and win a Division I-A or FBS bowl game.

Coach D2 FCS FBS Bowl Wins
David Bailiff 2019
Texas St.
2008 Texas
2012 Armed Forces
2014 Hawai’i
Terry Bowden 2009-11
North Alabama
1996 Independence^
1997 Peach^
2015 Idaho Potato*
*- Akron
^- Auburn
Willie Fritz 2002
Central Missouri
Sam Houston State
2018 Cure
Joe Glenn 1990-91, 95-99
Northern Colorado
2004 Las Vegas

Kyle Williams, who served the past two seasons as assistant defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach, takes over the Lions’ defensive coordinator for the 2022 season.
The Lions had top 10 passing defenses in Division II during both seasons with Williams on the staff, highlighted by 10 all-conference honors and Kader Kohou, who was named the 2021 LSC Defensive Back of the Year.
A 2006 graduate of Kansas State, Williams earned all-Big 12 honors as a player and his coaching stints prior to Commerce include University of Southern California and Kansas State.
Williams was the defensive coordinator at Sul Ross State (DIII) from 2014-17. He had nine defensive players earn All-America status during that stretch.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Billy Riebock was named to the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football 40 Under 40 list in the annual publication during the 2021 season.
Riebock is entering his third competitive season and fourth year as the Lions’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, helping lead A&M-Commerce to the third round of the NCAA Division II playoffs, the Super Region Four finals, and an 11-3 overall record in 2019 and a record of 7-4 in 2021.

The Lions welcome five coaches to the staff this year, including two, who have served as coaches in the NFL and all five have former Division I coaching experience.
Ronnie Vinklarek takes over as offensive line coach. In his 42nd year of coaching, his previous stops include Rice, Houston, SmU, Oklahoma State, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, the CFL, and the XFL.
Curtis Fuller, a 12-year coach in the National Football League and four-year NFL player is appointed as the safeties coach. His previous stints are the Dallas Cowboys, the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers, and Arizona Cardinals.
Jack Tyler, an all-ACC linebacker at Virginia Tech, takes over as linebackers coach. He made his way to Commerce via Virginia Tech and FCS power James Madison.
Tyron Carrier, the current NCAA record holder with seven kick off return touchdowns, all coming at Houston, with one coming against Bailiff, when he was at Rice, is the new wide receivers coach. He was the 2018 Football Scoop Wide Receivers Coach of the Year at West Virginia and has previously coached at Houston, West Virginia, and Baylor. He also had a stint in the CFL with the Montreal Alouttes.
Michael Smith, played for Bailiff at Rice and is tasked with coaching the Lion defensive line. He came south to Texas following a two-year stop in South Dakota at Black Hills State (DII). His other coaching stops include Texas, New Mexico, and Iowa.
Scott Vestal, is on the same sidelines with Bailiff once again and is tasked with coaching the Lion tight ends as well as serving as the recruiting coordinator. His previous coaching stints include SMU, Texas, Kansas, Rice, and Western Kentucky.

The Lions have recorded eight straight winning seasons, which is the longest such streak in program history.
The streak began in 2013 and A&M-Commerce is 76-25 for a winning percentage of .752.

As is the case around the country, the Lions welcome 26 transfers to the squad in 2022. The transfers have found their way to Commerce from all levels of college football.

College Football Division Number of Transfers
Division I FBS 10 (Five from Power-Five)
Division I FCS 6
Division II 4

J.T. Smith (Klein Oak) brought home the NCAA Division II 100 Meter Dash National Championship this past May.
This was his second National Championship, after winning the 4×100 meter relay National Championship in 2021. Smith and the Lions placed fourth in the 4×100 meter relay in 2022.
Smith was also a NCAA National Championships qualifier for the 200 meter dash in 2022, placing 15th in the country.

Senior defensive back Darius Williams (Arlington Heights) was named to the Lone Star Conference Athletic Performance team, for excelling in work ethic, dedication to process, attendance, communication, leadership, and growth.
His current maxes are 315 lbs in the power clean, 20 lbs in the Front Squat, and 270 lbs in the Incline Press.
Williams earned all-conference honors on the field as well.

The 2021 senior class graduated with 42 wins during its four-season span, including the 2017 NCAA Division II National Championship.
Each of the past two senior classes have finished with 42 or more wins with the 2019 finishing as the most successful class in school history.
This year’s senior class has recorded 28 wins coming into the 2022 season.

Years Record Pct
2016-19 46-9 83.9
2015-18 43-10 81.1
2014-17 42-10 80.8
2017-21 42-11 79.2
1951-54 36-5-2 86.0
2013-16 35-14 71.4
1957-60 34-7 82.9
1972-75 32-13-1 76.0
1936-39 31-8 79.5
1990-93 31-16-1 65.6

Lion alums Kader Kohou and Amon Simon signed NFL contracts after succesful National Championship-winning careers at A&M-Commerce.
Kohou was signed by the Miami Dolphins as undrafted free agent, while Simon agreed to a contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
Kohou was the 2021 LSC Defensive Back of the Year and a two-time all-conference player.
Simon is a two-time All-American and the 2019 LSC Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Both players survived the first round of cuts in the preseason.
The Lions have had 30 draft picks in the NFL or the AFL all-time, the last player drafted was linebacker Antonio Wilson in 2000 by the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth round.

2017 Harlon Hill Trophy (Division II version of the Heisman Trophy) winner and National Championship winning quarterback Luis Perez was the starting quarterback for the New Jersey Generals in the revamped USFL.
Perez led the Generals to the semifinal round of the playoffs, playing under coach Mike Riley.
He started the NFL preseason with the Los Angeles Rams, his second stint with the defending National Champions, but was released during the first round of cuts.
Since graduating from A&M-Commerce, Perez has had stints with the Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Alliance of American Football, the XFL, and the Spring League.

Lion alum Alex Shillow was selected on the 2021 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team ®. He was one of the 11 student-athletes selected for the Combined Divisions (FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA) team. He was selected from 42 student-athletes who were nominated by sports information directors around the nation earlier this year. Since its inception in 1992, the award shines a spotlight on selfless student-athletes and honors their dedication to volunteerism, community service and their commitment to enriching the lives of others. While players are often recognized for their accomplishments and achievements on game day, these student-athletes have made significant contributions to the greater good of society, inspiring future generations of young athletes and the larger college football community.
Shillow was also a nominee for this award in 2019. As an active participant in multiple leadership roles for the Lions’ Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Shillow led community service and fundraising efforts to raise awareness, and funds for the Make A Wish Foundation. Shillow’s student-athlete group raised over $15,000 to grant two “Wish Kids” trips to Walt Disney World, as well as a trip to the NBA All-Star Game for the most recent “Wish Kid” at A&M-Commerce. Through fundraising initiatives and coordinated efforts, Shillow drove fundraisers and clothing donation collections to provide underprivileged families in the Commerce community with personalized gifts for Christmas.
Shillow was also a leader of the Make It Important Campaign in the summer of 2020, which involved a video and an action plan to bring awareness to the social injustices going on in the country in response to the George Floyd murder.
He led in getting his team fully registered to vote, along with other sport teams in the department, and initiated a conference-wide voter registration challenge. He sat on the university’s voter coalition committee to help make voter registration and voting more accessible for A&M-Commerce students. Shillow also led a virtual political open forum with two Texas state legislators – Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) and former Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton) – in front of over 300 student-athletes and guests, moderating an insightful conversation and dialogue between Texas legislators and student-athletes. This initiative won 3rd place for the NCAA Division II Award of Excellence this past year.
Shillow was also a leader and a part of Athletes In Action – a student-athlete faith based organization.
Shillow served on the NCAA Division II National Student Athlete Advisory Committee from 2018-21 and was the national chair of the committee from 2019-21. He led discussion and change around the topics of mental health, professional development, name image and likeness, and many student-athlete well-being topics, all while being a student-athlete and involved heavily in the Commerce community.
Lion Football ranked No. 4 in “Top 20 Programs That Inspire”
The Lion Football program was ranked No. 4 in College Athletic Advisor’s Top 20 Programs That Inspire.
The program rankings are open to all four-year, collegiate-level programs outside of NCAA Division I and are based on a subjective assessment of student experience in four areas:
-Holistic development of student-athletes in the institution;
-Academic achievement and support for the academic success of student-athletes;
-Overall college experience for participants within the program;
-Affordability/graduation rates/student satisfaction.
Although College Athletic Advisor’s list is subjective, the organization believes these rankings “present an informed starting point for a discussion about where student-athletes can excel as ‘triple-threat’ competitors (academics, athletics, and socially) in college and in their future lives.”

A&M-Commerce s best finish in the NCAA Division II Learfield Director’s Cup standings, placing No. 20 in 2021-22, its final year in the division.
A&M-Commerce recorded 487.25 points, which is the highest total in school history. The Lions received points for their postseason accomplishments in women’s basketball, men’s basketball, softball, women’s golf, men’s golf, women’s indoor and outdoor track & field, and men’s indoor and outdoor track & field.
The men’s track & field program produced top 10 finishes at both the NCAA Indoor National Championships and the NCAA Outdoor National Championships, while the women’s track & field program finished in the top 10 at the outdoor championships. The women’s golf team reached the National Championships, finishing 12th in the country.

This is the not the first time that the Lions will be taking on all their opponents this season, their first in Division I.
A&M-Commerce has at least one prior meeting with all but three teams on the 11-game schedule.

Series Record against opponents in 2022
Lincoln (Calif.) – Sept. 1
First Meeting

at Tennessee Tech – Sept. 10
Previous Meetings – 1
All-Time Series – 1-0
First Meeting – 1953 (Orlando, Fla. Tangerine Bowl)
Score – TAMUC 33, TTU 0

at Sam Houston – Sept. 17
Previous Meetings – 64
All-time Series – 39-24-1
First Meeting – 1919 (TAMUC 21, SHSU 7)
Last Meeting – 2015 (SHSU 38, TAMUC 24)

First Meeting

at Southeastern Louisiana – Oct. 8
Previous Meetings – 9
All-Time Series – 4-4-1
First Meeting – 1957 (TAMUC 25, SELU- 7)
Last Meeting – 2009 (SELU 41, TAMUC 7)

at McNeese – Oct. 15
Previous Meetings – 2
All-time Series – 1-1
First Meeting – 1970 (TAMUC 57, MSU 26)
Last Meeting – 1971 (MSU 47, TAMUC 3)

Houston Baptist – Oct. 22
Previous Meetings – 1
All-Time Series – 1-0
First Meeting – 2013 (TAMUC 55, HBU 21)

Incarnate Word – Oct. 29
Previous Meetings – 3
All-Time Series – 0-3
First Meeting – 2010 (UIW 17, TAMUC 16)
Last Meeting – 2012 (UIW 31, TAMUC 9)

Northwestern State – Nov. 5
Previous Meetings – 29
All-Time Series – 10-17-2
First Meeting – 1926 (NSU 17, TAMUC 7)
Last Meeting – 2008 (NSU 30, TAMUC 14)

at Nicholls – Oct. 12
First Meeting

Tennessee State – Oct. 19
Previous Meetings – 1
All-Time Series – 0-1
First Meeting – 1986 (TSU 15, TAMUC 6)


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