Mike Cavan succeeded Tom Rossley as SMU head coach. Rossley coached SMU from 1991 to 1996 and left with a 15–48–3 record. Cavan became SMU's third head coach in the post-"death penalty" era for SMU. Cavan was previously head coach at Valdosta State from 1986 to 1991 and East Tennessee State from 1992 to 1996. This is Cavan's first head coaching job at a Division I-A school.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey left SMU to take the head coaching job at North Texas in 1998; Greg Briner, previously the quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at Georgia, succeeded Dickey as offensive coordinator. Offensive line graduate assistant Paul Etheridge was promoted to tight ends and offensive tackles David McKnight moved to running backs coach.