Change upon the Hilltop; SMU Fires Matt Doherty

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SMU announced it has decided to part ways with Matt Doherty after six very lackluster seasons. There was a lot of hope and excitement heading into this season after being invited to play in the collegeinsiders.com tournament last season. The hope was the Mustangs could build on that success and make a potential run into the NCAA Tournament.

Instead, this year was met with regression and more struggling. While nobody would say it during the year, there was a sentiment that Doherty would be relieved of his coaching duties if the team didn’t turn it around. This was the last thing SMU Basketball needed on the heels of the announcement of joining the Big East.

Steve Orisini, the athletic director of SMU, said that they will immediately begin a national coaching search for Doherty’s replacement. But he would not give any inclination if there are any potential candidates at this time. SMU would like to see it’s basketball program start to build a winning program soon because they are about to begin a 40+ million dollar renovation of Moody Coliseum.

Doherty was 80-109 in his six seasons on the hilltop. He was very graceful in his exit and wished the school and the players the best of luck. He is estimated to walk away with a 500,000 buyout of his contract. The next question everyone is asking now, who will come coach the Mustangs as they head into the basketball dominant Big East?

Tulsa wins 7th straight in Dallas

I experienced another sports writing thrill for me today. With press credentials in hand I had a chance to see the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa as they stormed into Dallas on a 6 game winning streak. They were able to take an early lead on the Ponies and never look back. The SMU faithful showed up in small numbers; but they were loud and boisterous every chance the Ponies got close. But alas, there was no slowing down the Hurricanes today.

It was a very close and intense game from beginning to end and the Mustangs looked poised to make a run at one point, unfortunately the best they could do was tie the score. Obviously this kept the fans involved in the game. However, every time the score was tied the Hurricanes would respond with another run and stretch their lead back out. I guess the old cliché applies here, “close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades”.

Tulsa was undoubtedly a little revenge minded after losing a buzzer beater to the Mustangs on their home floor recently. The Ponies put up a stalwart fight today, but there was just not enough “horse power” for them to overtake Tulsa.

This SMU team showed a lot of heart, but in the end the Hurricanes were just too much for them.

There are signs of improvement for this Mustang team. They are beginning to play as a unit. Tulsa looks to be one of the best teams in Conference USA, so hanging with them was at least a moral victory for the Ponies. It’s not time to throw in the towel. There is still a lot of basketball left to play in the conference. At that point we will find out where these two teams will finish. Don’t be surprised if you find SMU in the hunt at the end of the season.

This was a good game, but just too much of a test for SMU today. However, if they continue to grow and mature…who knows? They have the potential…they just need to work on the resolve, consistency and desire. They have good athletes…they just need to play up to their potential.

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SMU must question June Jones loyalty

June Jones will have a lot to answer to over the next few months from the SMU faithful. He apparently agreed to, and accepted a deal to become the next head coach at Arizona State University, but some ASU boosters yanked the deal at the last minute. While you cannot blame a guy for wanting to take a better job and improve his status, this has to make a lot of people at SMU wonder where his loyalties lie.

SMU is not a destination job; most people around the program understand it will be a stepping stone gig for at least a few more years. But now the school has been accepted to move into the Big East, the school has to make sure they have a coach to lead the charge. It is understandable to think a Conference USA school is only a stop along the way. But with a move to the Big East, SMU will start to shed that persona, and will want to become a destination job for a top flight coach.

June Jones made it publicly known this year he was disappointed with attendance at home games and possibly this had something to do with his looking elsewhere. However, June needs to understand this area has seen the Mustangs go from a National Power to a nonexistent football program. Until recently, there were kids who grew up never seeing SMU have a winning season. So the little success he has had at SMU is just starting to open people’s eyes to the program again. And as they say, “build it and they will come”.

SMU is a far cry from what he had at Hawaii, but he needs to remember, at Hawaii his football team was the only game in town. Dallas is a very fickle city, and if he can build a consistent winner, then the crowds will start to show. But as it stands now there are going to be a lot of people around the program questioning his loyalty to SMU. People will wonder if another big job opens, will he bolt at first light.

SMU needs to pin Jones down and see if they can get him to commit long term to the school. He is definitely the right man for this job. SMU needs to make sure he will lead them into the Big East and hopefully on to success and recognition. If June Jones is able to commit to the program, then SMU may become a destination job every coach looks for. But as it stands now, they both need each other for this happen.

The Big East; Heading West?

There is an expected announcement from the Big East that will help possibly save the conference from its looming demise. Rumor has it they are planning on adding 5 more members to replace the ones who have left and / or spurned the conference for opportunities elsewhere. While adding more teams and strengthening the conference is a good thing, some of the additions are questionable to say the least…

The addition of teams like Central Florida, Southern Methodist, and Houston make sense for the conference. This will also give them a solid presence in Florida and Texas, which are two of the biggest recruiting hot beds in the country. Then the big question…by adding in Boise State and San Diego State it makes one scratch their head and wonder why they would do this. These additions will make the Big East, the first coast to coast conference.

There is hope once the conference gets to 12 teams, they can go to divisions and help alleviate some of the travel concerns. The biggest question now is how will the Western schedules play out? What will the schedule be for these teams? It is obvious travel will be a logistical nightmare for San Diego State and Boise State. It will also be a nightmare for the Eastern teams with home and home schedules against these schools. However, these two teams signed up for it and will just have to deal with the problems they present. Hope they all thought through this as it sounds pretty dumb to me.

The conference will make arrangements to add these teams by 2013, but they are also rumored to try and attract Navy and Air Force by 2015 at the latest. This is just another shake up in the world of college football, but this expansion will make it hard if not impossible for fans of these schools to travel to away games, especially if it is across country on consecutive weeks.

But once again the schools and conferences show they don’t care about the fans. It’s all about making money and keeping themselves relevant in the BCS.

This entire upheaval of all the conferences has turned into a game of musical chairs for all the teams involved. I bet a lot of them will regret their decisions in the long run. We’ll see.

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SMU – TCU; the Rivalry that just woke up

This past weekend the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex was treated to something that hasn’t really been anything exciting for a number of years, the annual rivalry between SMU and TCU has always been an afterthought for an area where fans will go crazy when something happens. This is a game that until recently had a long string of dominating performances from TCU, but last year on ESPN, June Jones showed the nation that SMU was on the climb and was ready to knock TCU off the local dominance. This year, everybody expected TCU to be able to make their case to have another BCS run, but that got derailed quickly with an upset in Waco, but the Horned Frogs have been working to regain some of that lost momentum since that first game. This would have been a good step to start building that momentum over a vastly improved SMU team.

 While the game was exciting from the onset, it was known early that SMU came to Fort Worth to play and make their case. This was a fun game to watch early, because the underdog Mustangs came out and lay shot after shot against their rival and looked to just take the game over early. But in typical rivalry fashion, TCU wasn’t going to just lie down and let SMU run over them. TCU made the late game push to try and take the game back. This ultimately ended up forcing the game into overtime, and in the extra frame the Mustangs found a way to pull off the victory. While it was a great victory for an up and coming SMU program, it did signal some alarms in Fort Worth and brought their fans back to a crushing reality. This TCU team isn’t going to do what it did last year.

 It is games like this that will strike a fire on both sides of the rivalry and awaken the dormant feelings that have been in so many local alumni. It is easy for fans to get complacent when one side tends to dominate year after year. But all it takes is one game to ignite that fire within the fans and bring back a rivalry that goes back to the early days of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. If this rivalry can become an even match every year, even the most neutral football fan will get excited and you will start seeing fans that don’t have a rooting interest take interest in this game. I think you can say that the SMU-TCU rivalry is waking up and it will wake up the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

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