Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach in a Year: the Swift Rise of HCU’s Jason Bachtel

Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach in a Year: the Swift Rise of HCU’s Jason Bachtel
HCU's new head coach, Jason Bachtel, at a January 10 press conference at Denham Hall on campus

When Jason Bachtel followed Braxton Harris to Houston Christian University’s football program a year ago, he didn’t know he would be replacing Harris as head coach.

Harris and Bachtel (as offensive coordinator) transformed HCU’s struggling Division I team—which only won two games in 2022—and led it to a winning* season for the first time in program history.

But just over one year after signing on at HCU, Harris got snagged by the Campbell University Fighting Camels.

It appeared to be a sudden decision. As late as December 20, Harris was using the Husky hashtag #DawgsUp on Facebook, expressing excitement for National Signing Day 2024. But on December 31, HCU announced a search for a new head coach.

Four days later, the university settled on Jason Bachtel.

“It didn’t take us very long to figure out that we had the right guy in the building,” said athletic director Steve Moniacci at a January 10 press conference.

According to HCU President Robert Sloan, Bachtel counts 2023 as an “asterisk winning season” for the eleven-year-old football team.

Said Sloan, “We were five and five on the field. We picked up another game by forfeit. And so you can argue as to whether it’s a winning season or not.”

The entrance to Husky Stadium at HCU

But Sloan was hopeful for the future. “We’re going to achieve, under your leadership, a true winning program,” he told Bachtel.

Before becoming HCU’s offensive coordinator last January, Bachtel coached at multiple Texas high schools, as well as Howard Payne University. He credited his wife Tara, who knew his dream to be a Division I coach, with encouraging him to move to HCU.

He also credited Braxton Harris for bringing him to the program, although he was surprised when Harris’ sudden exit left him with a direct path from offensive coordinator to head coach.

Apparently, Harris was surprised too. In an interview with KHOU’s Jason Bristol, Harris said that he and his family bought a house in Houston and planned to stay. But the chance to take the helm at Campbell, where he had been associate head coach before coming to HCU, was too tempting. “This is the only job that we would have left HCU after one year for.”

Bachtel wants to continue Harris’ vision for Husky football. At the press conference, Bachtel said that the team improved in 2023 because the players bought into Harris’ vision, which includes discipline, commitment, unity, toughness, and “doing the little things right.”

That vision even includes better grades, said Bachtel. “We had 53 young men that had a 3.0 GPA or higher in the fall semester. We need to continue to grow that.”

For Bachtel, football isn’t just about football. It’s a “a platform to teach and preach,” a way to “mold men into being great husbands and fathers.”