If you have paid any attention to SMU over the last few seasons, then you have noticed a big change. Back in the days of the old Southwest Conference the Mustangs could hang with the best of them. SMU had a winning tradition in the 70′s and 80′s. But, all of the success and fanfare came to a crashing and a grinding halt with the death penalty resulting from their abuse of the football program.
About 3 years ago the school made a surprising move when they lured away, Coach June Jones from Hawaii. June Jones has a long coaching pedigree that includes stints in the NFL and other college stops. He has rebuilt more than one struggling program. As soon as he arrived on the hilltop it was an attitude adjustment for the whole program. He took over the program after the 2008 season, and in his first season as head coach the Mustangs snapped a 25 year bowl drought.
It has been a steady climb for the Ponies and for the school itself. They have now played in 3 straight bowl games, and played for one conference title. Obviously this is a long way from the first days coming back from the death penalty; some naysayers said it would never be done. Unfortunately this success has come with a few hiccups along the way. The biggest one being Coach Jones nearly left for another job this off season. Thankfully this was worked out and SMU announced they would be joining the Big East conference starting in 2013.
This is a big move for the athletics program. The administrators and fans alike have started to feel this program is ready to compete with the big boys of college football. Even though they lobbied for a Big XII spot they were unfortunately unable to obtain the invite. However, moving into the Big East Conference is putting SMU right in the middle of the BCS, and this along with winning will help attract quality players to the hilltop. SMU now is beginning to be a destination stop for top quality athletes.
It was also recently announced that SMU athletics is now going to sign with Nike as the apparel provider for the school. Nothing against Addidas, but Nike is the big time as far as apparel goes. While there is still a long way to go, SMU is transitioning itself into big time athletics. While it isn’t fully complete, there is a winning tradition being restored on the hilltop once again.
As a side note, the basketball arena, Moody Coliseum, is beginning to undergo some improvements as well. This is another good lesson in college athletics; when the football program is winning, the rest of the athletic departments benefit.
Whether you’re a long time fan, or someone who has just adopted SMU as your school of choice, you should be proud of what SMU has done. Whether you choose the “Stampede” or “Pony up”, if you live close by then you need to pay attention to SMU because they are on the rise and could be a big time football program once again. Once this transformation is complete, then everyone can forget the bad days and be proud of a new found winning tradition.