|Athletic director||Steve Orsini|
|Head coach||June Jones|
|Home stadium||Gerald J. Ford Stadium|
|Past conferences|| Southwest Conference|
Western Athletic Conference
|Postseason bowl record||5–7–1|
|Claimed national titles||3|
|Colors||Harvard Red and Yale Blue|
The SMU Mustangs football program is a college football team that represents Southern Methodist University (more commonly "SMU"). The team competes in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) as a member Conference USA. The Mustangs have competed in the West Division of Conference USA since 2005.
1976-1986: A Winning RecordEdit
Coach Ron Meyer came to SMU in 1976 after his success as an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s (including a Super Bowl win) and a stint with UNLV. Coach Meyer was infamous for his recruiting tactics, including visits each year to the homes of an unprecedented 70 or more of the top recruits per year. His most notable recruits were future NFL runningbacks Eric Dickerson and Craig James before the 1979 season, as both their high school teams went 15-0 and won state championships. Combined with blue chip runningback Charles Waggoner, the three backs were nicknamed the "Pony Express" running attack and shredded opposing defenses in the option offense led by quarterback Lance McIlhenny. This team claimed a share of the 1981 college football Division 1-A national championship, based on the determination of the National Championship Foundation.
Coach Meyer left to become the head coach of the New England Patriots in 1982, and SMU hired Coach Bobby Collins, then head coach at University of Southern Mississippi. Dickerson finished 3rd in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1982, and the team claimed a share of its second consecutive national championship, based on the determination of the Helms Athletic Foundation.
SMU posted a record of 45-5-1 from 1980–1984, which was the highest win percentage (0.892) in Division 1-A over that span.
1987-2007: NCAA "Death Penalty" and decades of rebuildingEdit
In 1987, SMU football became the first, and currently only, football program in collegiate athletic history to receive the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) "Death Penalty" for repeat violation of NCAA rules, that is, having a sports program fully terminated for a determined amount of time. SMU's football program was terminated for the 1987 season because the University was making approximately $61,000 in booster payments from 1985 to 1986. It later emerged that a "slush fund" had been used to pay players as early as the mid-1970s, and athletic officials had known about it as early as 1981.
SMU was eligible for the "death penalty" because it had been placed on probation in 1985 for recruiting violations. Since many players were poor, boosters would pay for rent or other bills for the parents of the athletes, and several key boosters and administration officials felt it would be unethical to cut off payments. When the sanctions were handed down, SMU had three players - all seniors about to graduate - receiving payments. Not long afterward, SMU announced that its football team would stay shuttered for the 1988 season as well after school officials received indications that they wouldn't have enough experienced players to field a viable team as most of the team left the university and transferred to other institutions. Forrest Gregg, an SMU alum who was the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, was hired in 1988 to help rebuild the team. The decimation of the program meant that Gregg was left with an undersized and underweight lineup; he was taller and heavier than virtually all of his players.
The Mustangs struggled for 20 years to recover from the effects of the scandal. Coach Gregg compiled a 3-19 record in his two seasons. He moved on to be the SMU Athletic Director from 1990 through 1994.
The Mustangs had 3 more head coaches and only one winning season through the completion of the 2007 season.
2008-present: Return to SuccessEdit
In 2008 SMU hired Steve Orsini away from the University of Central Florida (UCF) to be the SMU Athletic Director. Orsini then hired June Jones from the University of Hawai'i to be the team's new head coach at SMU and currently the 5th coach in the post death penalty time since 1989. In Jones' first season at SMU the team had a 1-11 record. In 2009, Coach Jones' second season at SMU, the Mustangs had a turnaround season, compiling an improved regular season record of 7-5. Although finishing unranked in the 2009 NCAA Division I FBS football rankings, SMU was invited to its first bowl game in 25 years, defeating the unranked Nevada Wolf Pack with a final score 45-10 in the 2009 Hawai'i Bowl, the team's first bowl win since 1984.
In 2010, the Mustangs again compiled a regular season record of 7-5, with a 6-2 in-conference record to earn their first chance at winning a conference title in 26 years, securing a berth in the Conference USA Championship game. SMU lost the conference title game, 17-7, against UCF. Once again unranked in the 2010 NCAA Division I FBS football rankings, SMU was invited to its second consecutive bowl game, the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl, where it lost against the unranked Army Black Knights.
On September 3rd 2011, Athletic Director Steve Orsini stated: "We want stability in the regional conference that meets our objective," Orsini said, "and that right now would be defined as the Big 12."
"Regionalism is a sign of strength, and we feel expansion, especially in the latest trends, is a sign of strength," Orsini said. "And we feel we can help an AQ conference in both of those areas."
Orsini made it clear that SMU isn't solely interested in the Big 12, but in finding an AQ home. Should the Mustangs' current league, Conference USA, achieve AQ status someday, that would work just fine. Maybe the Mountain West earns an AQ distinction and decides to dip back into the Metroplex again.
"When we were affiliated with those schools in this region [Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech], we were competing very successfully," Orsini reminded. "We have a lot of conference championships in the Southwest Conference to show for it. "We're ready. It took us a long time to rebound from the historic low that hit here, but that was 25 years ago. There are no signs of that anymore."
The NCAA's website states that "the NCAA does not conduct a national championship in Division I-A football and is not involved in the selection process." It goes on to say that "a number of polling organizations provide a final ranking of Division I-A football teams at the end of each season." SMU officially claims three national championships (1935, 1981 & 1982). (The NCAA officially changed the "I-A" designation to the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 2006.)