SMU Alum Dickerson: "Kill the Program"
|Former SMU QB Garrett Gilbert|
Methodist University that would change the college football landscape: the death penalty. The death penalty would cost SMU their 1987 season (they decided not to play at all in 1988) and would cast a long shadow over the program for a long time. Though, in 2009, things appeared to be taking a major turn. After years of being a bottom dweller in the now-defunct Southwest Conference and the Conference USA, the Mustangs dominated a good Nevada team in the Hawaii Bowl, winning 45-10 under rising head coach June Jones. While the program appears to be improving, the story of SMU football took another turn when former SMU running back Eric Dickerson took a shot at the university stating "I talked to four former players yesterday, and we all said if they don't want to do anything, just kill the program", following the resignation of Jones.
Since 1989, here are some of SMU's football records: 91-193-3 overall, while also managing just two victories over Top 25 teams in over two decades. And while the program certainly took some major steps under Jones, it was far, far away from returning to anything remotely similar to the "Pony Express" days of the early 1980s. 2014 has been a pure nightmare for SMU and we are still in early September. The Mustangs first two games of the year: starting the season off with a 45-0 loss to Baylor and then an embarrassing 37-point struggle against North Texas (things don't look much brighter on the horizon, Texas A&M and TCU will get up a lot of points as well). Then, the resignation of Jones, a pretty well-known coach who turned around Hawaii. And then, to add insult to injury, the Mustangs learned their starting quarterback, Neal Burcham would miss the rest of the season. This year is clearly not the year that SMU makes a serious breakthrough and it doesn't appear the near future will see one either. What does SMU need to do to turn around the program that has been just plain terrible for well over two decades? Should Dickerson's comments be taken into serious consideration?
First things first, the Mustangs need a coach. Since Forest Gregg in the 90s and Jones just recently, SMU really hasn't had any memorable head coach who has done anything to improve the program. This hiring could be one of the most important in school history, and they need to make it count. Some of the big names involved with the vacant position include former Arkansas and Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt along with Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth along with Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables are two of the other big name possibilities for the job. One thing is clear: frustration for alumni is as strong as ever (which makes sense after 25 years of losing and seeing your team lose to North Texas by 37) and some new life needs to be poured into the program. Despite the fact the program has been a complete joke for years and years it is a relatively attractive job, at least for some. It is right smack dab in the heart of Dallas, a thriving city and it also has access to the rich recruiting basin that Texas is. Also, while the American Athletic Conference is essentially a C-USA 2.0, it would be a step up for Hudspeth and other coaches for Non-Power Five conferences. No matter who takes over they have to do some important things. First and foremost, inject some life into the fan base, the team and the program. 25 years of perennially losing isn't going to get any fan base excited and the program has gone back into its hibernating state, following some jolts of life under Jones. They will need to recruit with the best of Texas (most of the coaches SMU is considering have strong Texas ties) and above all else they have to win. The American Athletic is not exactly very tough to have success in and while this team has struggled so much this year it has some pieces. If a new coach can attract some great Southwest prospects, the Mustangs will be on their way. Though, the most important thing a new coach must have is patience, and the fans and alums must have it as well. And, it isn't easy to have patience when you've seen a team stink for just so long. But, taking this program back to their glory days won't happen overnight, considering it hasn't shown any signs of returning to that state in three decades.
Obviously, Dickerson is frustrated. It doesn't take a genius, a college football expert or anyone else special to tell you that. After being a key member of the dominant "Pony Express", Dickerson certainly hasn't had much fun watching SMU football since then. Not only has he been frustrated with the play on the field, he has been frustrated with some of the athletics departments coaching moves. But, like I said, patience will be key for the former college football star. And, like I said, that certainly won't be easy. One thing is painfully clear for SMU and it has been painfully clear for some time: they need to win, and win now. The infamous death penalty was 25 years ago and it is time to stop using that as an excuse. Some moves need to made and quick, or else we will continue to hear more and more stories of alums frustrated, much like Dickerson.