GREAT OPENING

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – There is no question that there are great expectations for this year’s SMU Men’s basketball team, and Friday night, the season got off to a great start with a 93-54 win over the out-manned Lamar Cardinals.  SMU led this one wire to wire, taking a 10 point lead in less than seven minutes and extending it to more than 20 at the half at 46-20.  The largest SMU lead was 43 with four minutes left in the game.

SMU did the scoring damage with three big men.  The Mustangs outscored the Cardinals 46-14 in the paint as Ben Moore, Yanick Moreira, and Cannen Cunningham combined to score 56 points on 22-27 shooting (81.5%).  Moore led all scorers with 22 points, while Moreira and Cunningham added 19 and 15 respectively.  Moore led the Mustangs with a game high nine rebounds, as he fell one rebound short of recording a double-double, and a game high five assists.  Guard Nic Moore also had five assists.

Newcomers Ben Emelogu and Justin Martin, transfers from Virginia Tech and Villanova, look to be fitting in nicely with the Mustangs’ system.  Emelogu started and scored eight points.  He also had three steals, a third of SMU’s total for the game.  Martin has been dealing with an injury which limited him to 10 minutes of play, but he scored eight points on 3-3 shooting, including one three pointer.

One Mustang thought to be a key to this season is Keith Frazier.  Frazier was a McDonald’s High School All-American at Dallas Kimball and was ranked as one of the top 20 players in the country coming out of high school.  He made his first college start Friday night and tied his career scoring high with 11 points on 3-6 shooting.  That included 2-4 beyond the three point arc.

Point guard Nic Moore, an All Conference performer last season, played a solid game scoring six points with five assists and a steal in 29 minutes.  Moore averaged 32 minutes per game last year, but the addition of Emelogu is expected to enable SMU to play Moore less and keep him fresher.  It was a quiet game by Moore’s normal standards, but Larry Brown said about him, “I thought he played great.  We just won by 40.  He’s trying to do the right thing.  He’s done really well in practice.  We need to have other people help us.  He’ll be fine.”

The bad news of the day for SMU was the confirmation of the rumor that had been floating for more than a month that center Markus Kennedy is academically ineligible until at least the end of the first semester.  Kennedy was named to second team All-Conference last season and was the Mustangs’ second leading scorer.  He will miss key non-conference matchups with Gonzaga, Indiana and Arkansas, though he if he regains his eligibility this season, he should be back in time for the Michigan game.  His absence creates a huge hole for the Ponies, though the center cupboard is not bare.  Yanick Moreira was the starting center at the start of last season, while Canned Cunningham was the starting center two years ago.

Head coach Larry Brown shared these thoughts after the game, “I don’t like games like that.  That’s a tough game for us cause we’re not prepared for a lot of things we saw.  They threw so many different defenses at us.  At the end of the day, everybody got to play, which you always love as a coach.  I thought our transition defense was really good.  For the most part, we took good shots.  We took some quick threes, but they were there.  But we didn’t rebound like we needed to, and we put them on the line too much.  That gives us something to talk about.”

Brown admitted there were some pre-game jitters as the season started.  “I think guys were excited.  Keith (Frazier) was like a nervous wreck, but he kind of calmed down.  Yeah, I think there was a lot of excitement.  We got a couple of kids that hadn’t played for us before – Justin (Martin) and Ben (Emelogu).  And Justin’s been out.  He really hasn’t practiced much at all.  But all in all, we have a win at home.  We’ve got practice tomorrow and watch some film to get ready to play you know one of the better programs in the country (Gonzaga) in a real difficult place to play against a great team.  It’s a little early.  We expected to have Emmanuel (Mudiay) and Markus (Kennedy), but we’re just gonna learn from this.  I’m anxious to see how we compete.  I’m hopeful we’ll be prepared to play.”

“I thought all our big guys offensively were really good.  I think we just need to be more concerned about rebounding the ball better.”  Brown was especially pleased with the play of the two transfers, “I’m really confident they’re going to be really big contributors for us.  They’re both unbelievably great kids.  Justin (Martin) has poise.  He’s played in two NCAA Tournaments.  Ben (Emelogu) is just a great kid who wants to get better.  I think their upside is really there, and they’re really going to be important.”

The Mustangs schedule is much tougher next week as they hit the road to play Gonzaga, ranked 13th in both major polls, on Monday night and Indiana on Thursday.  Monday’s game is televised in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area on ESPN2 at 10:00 PM (Central).  Thursday’s game can be seen on the Big 10 Network.  The next home game is next Saturday at 7:00 PM against Eastern Washington.

COCKTAIL CONVERSATION:  Buck Showalter, the American League Manager of the Year, and Clayton Kershaw, the National League Cy Young and MVP Awards winner, attended the game.  They were there to see Preston Mattingly, Lamar’s 27 year-old point guard, who is the son of Yankee great and Dodger manager Don Mattingly.  Mattingly and Kershaw were teammates in the Dodgers’ minor league system.  Also seen at the game was actor Ben Baumgarner noted for appearing on the television series “The Office”.  Baumgarner is a former SMU student.

SIGNING DAY

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

As expected, high school seniors Malik “Shake” Milton, Sedrick Barefield and Jarrey Foster signed with the Mustangs’ Men’s basketball team yesterday.

Milton (6′-5″, 190) was the Oklahoma Player of the Year last season, when he averaged 28.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for Owasso High School.  Owasso had a 21-6 record and reached the state quarterfinals.

Barefiled (6′-2″, 185) averaged 17.4 points, 4.4 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game for Centennial High School in Corona, California.  He led his team to a 29-4 record last year.

Foster (6′-5″, 190) averaged 12.9 points 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game for Houston North Shore, which won the 5A state title.

The SMU Women’s program signed four players for the 2015-16 season.  They included Dallas Skyline standout Dai’ja Thomas, Karlie Cronin from Virgina, McKenzie Adams, a transfer from Arkansas, and Stephanie Collins from Australia.  Collins is the third player to join the Mustangs from the Australian National team.

Thomas is a 6′-2″ forward that averaged 10 points and seven rebounds as a junior.  She was All-State last year when she shot 56% for the season.

Cronin is a 5′-9″ guard from Vienna, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D. C.  She started all 31 games as a freshman for Oakton High School, which won state with a perfect 31-0 record.

Adams started all 30 games for Arkansas last year.  She was fourth on the team in scoring at 8.6 points per game.  She played in high school at Frisco Centennial.  She will enroll at SMU in the spring and be eligible to play after the fall semester next year, though SMU plans to apply for a waiver to make her eligible for the entire 2015-16 season.

Collins is a 6′-5″ center from Melbourne.  She is expected to enroll this spring and be immediately eligible.  Twins Alicia and Keely Froling are the other two Australian players in the SMU program.

NEXT YEAR

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Men’s basketball home and season opener against Lamar is less than a week away, but the Mustangs expect to have a big day even before next Friday.  Wednesday is the November signing date for high school seniors, and the Ponies have received four outstanding verbal commitments.  Certainly verbal commitments are not binding, and last minute switches have occurred, but assuming the foursome follows through as committed, it will be a big day for Mustang basketball and their fans.  Here’s a look at the four high schoolers that have committed verbally to SMU.

Shake Milton:  Milton is a four-star combo guard from Oswego, Oklahoma.  He is ranked in ESPN’s top 100 prospects and selected SMU over the Sooners and Indiana.

Jarrey Foster:  Foster is a 6′-4″ guard from Galena Park North Shore rated as a three star prospect.  He projects to play the two or three at SMU.  He originally committed to Rice, but switched shortly after his September visit to the Hilltop.  Foster also had garnered interest from Baylor and Texas.

Sedric Barefield:  Barefield is a 6′-2″ point guard from Corona (Centennial High), California.  He’s rated as a four star prospect., ranked 85th in the 2015 class by Rivals.com.  Barefield actually committed as a junior during an official visit to SMU.

LaGerald Vick: Vick is another four-star recruit from Memphis.  He’s a 6′-5″ shooting guard that chose the Mustangs over his hometown’s Memphis Tigers.  He was also recruited by SEC schools Tennessee, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Auburn, as well as Baylor, Georgia Tech and Florida State.  Actually, there is some chance that Vick will attend a prep school next year and become part of 2016′s recruiting class.

The Mustangs will be losing Yanick Moreira, Cannen Cunningham, Justin Martin and Ryan Manuel after this season, so the influx of these four talented high school seniors will go a long way toward keeping the talent flow going on the Hilltop.  They’ll be joined by Jordan Tolbert, the transfer from Texas Tech that is sitting out this season as a transfer.

The Mustangs actually open with a double header next Friday.  The Women’s team plays Northern Colorado with a 6:00 PM tip off.  The Men’s game against Lamar follows approximately 30 minutes after the end of the Women’s game or about 8:30 PM.

ALSO:

*.    Various media members have ranked SMU’s Men’s team as follows:  SB Nation (Ricky O’Donnell) 10, NBC Sports (Rob Dauster) and Bleacher Report (Jason King) 16, Sports Illustrated 17, USA Today (Scott Gleeson) 19, CBS Sports (Gary Parrish) and ESPN 20, and Dick Vitale 22.

*     The game time for the homecoming football game against South Florida has been set at 7:00 PM (CST).  That game time was obviously set by television executives as it undoubtedly wreaks havoc with reunion parties originally scheduled for Saturday night.  The homecoming parade begins at 4:30 PM.

PICKED SECOND

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Season tickets for SMU Men’s basketball arrived in today’s mail, making the start of the season that much closer.  With the calendar flipping to November and daylight savings time going into hibernation this weekend, the season feels all that much closer.

The American Athletic Conference announced earlier today pre-season predictions from polling the coaches.  The Mustangs, ranked 22nd in the USA Today Coaches poll, were predicted to come in second behind reigning National Champion and pre-season number 15 Connecticut.  The Huskies out polled SMU with six first place votes to the Ponies’ five.  Memphis, Cincinnati and Tulsa rounded out the top five in the conference.

Nic Moore was predicted to repeat as a first team All-Conference performer.  Markus Kennedy was also predicted to join Moore on the first team, after he was second team last season.  UCONN’s Ryan Boatright was tabbed as the conference Player of the Year and the Huskies’ freshman guard/forward Daniel Hamilton was predicted to be the conference Rookie of the Year.  Boatright, Moore and Kennedy were the only unanimous picks to the first team.

The Mustangs’ season and home opener is scheduled for Friday, November 14 at Moody Coliseum.  SMU set a new season attendance record last year, and most certainly will again this season as the entire home schedule is sold out to season ticket holders.

ALSO:

*     Head Coach LARRY a Brown was pleased that the NCAA cleared Ben Emelogu to play this season. “I was happy for him.  I appreciate Virginia Tech allowing him to do that.”  As for what Emologu brings to the Mustangs, Brown said, “He’s a really solid player.  He can play multiple positions.”

 

DISAPPOINTING AND DISILLUSIONING

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Last Saturday’s 45-3 loss to Cincinnati was perhaps the most disappointing game of an extremely disappointing season.  The Mustangs were coming off their best offensive performance of the year two weeks earlier, when they posted a season high 24 points against a ranked East Carolina team.  They actually out-scored the Pirates in the second half 21-10, pulling to within 11 points in the third quarter.  On top of that, SMU had their second unscheduled week after the ECU game giving them a chance to install more of the new coach’s offensive and defensive schemes as well as heal some of the nicks and bruises from the first six weeks of play.

The Mustangs had a genuine chance to win last Saturday, though even another good showing would have been a positive step forward.  They really played a fine first quarter after an auspicious start.  Cincinnati took the opening kickoff and met little resistance from the Mustangs’ defense.  The Bearcats marched the ball into the end zone in less than three minutes of playing time, but missed the extra point to take a 6-0 lead.

From there, the Ponies put together a nice drive.  At one point they looked poised to take their first lead in a game this season, after scoring a touchdown.  However, the TD was over-turned on video review, and the Mustangs settled for a field goal.  An egregious no-call on a clear late hit out of bounds probably cost SMU the touchdown anyway, but that’s the life of bad football teams.  They don’t get lucky bounces and they don’t get helpful officials’ calls, even if deserving.

At the end of the quarter, the Mustangs trailed 6-3 and had actually outgained the Bearcats with 103 total yards to 91.  From there, the Ponies fell apart in the second quarter.  The dagger in the heart came late in the quarter, when SMU had the ball in their own territory for their apparent last possession of the half.  Moving it for a score would put the game in reach for the second half.  Instead, quarterback Garrett Krstich was chased out of the pocket and fumbled as he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage.  A Cincinnati defender scooped up the loose ball and ran it in for a touchdown to up the score to 28-3.

The second half played out with Cincinnati scoring a field goal in the third quarter followed by another field goal and touchdown in the fourth for the 41-3 final.  The SMU offense was not heard from.  Krstich ended up 17-31, but totaled just 88 passing yards.  Cincinnati almost doubled SMU’s total yardage with 508 to the Mustangs’ 276.

Memphis comes to town this weekend.  This was a game that looked winnable prior to the season’s start.  Memphis was not supposed to be very good, and with home field advantage, the Ponies looked to have a good chance to win.  However, the Tigers have proven to be better than expected.  They are 3-3 and favored by 23 points on the betting line.  It’s an 11:00 AM (Central) start in a game televised on ESPN News.  After what we saw last Saturday, it’s difficult to have much optimism for this week’s game.

COCKTAIL CONVERSATION:  The Dallas Morning News reported today that SMU has approached former Texas Longhorns’ coach Mack Brown to become the next head football coach at SMU.  An eight year, $32 million deal is the rumored salary figure.

 

LESS THAN FIVE WEEKS!

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The first SMU men’s basketball game is less than five weeks away and practice opened this past Monday.  The Ponies were 27-10 last year (12-6 in conference), good enough for third place in the American Athletic Conference and second in the National Invitational Tournament.  They were ranked in four of the final regular season Top 25 polls, their first ranking since the 1984-85 season.

The 27 wins were second most in school history trailing the 28-7 record during the 1987-88 season.  18 of those wins came at home, 12 of which were won in Moody Coliseum.  Nine of the 13 Moody Coliseum games were sellouts, and the Mustangs set a new home attendance record of 107,412.  That record will undoubtedly last only a year, as this year’s Mustangs have 18 home games scheduled in Moody, all of which are already sold out.

The Mustangs return 10 players from last year’s team.  Point guard Nic Moore was first team All-AAC as he led the team in scoring (13.4 points per game) and assists (4.9).  Center Markus Kennedy was second team All-AAC as he led the team in rebounding (7.1 per game) and was second in scoring with 12.4 PPG.  Both made the All-NIT team.

Three other returning Mustangs played internationally this summer.  Yanick Moreira played for Angola in FIBA World Cup in Spain.  Sophomores Ben Moore and Sterling Brown played for the Global Sports Academy U. S. team in the Goodwill Tour.  They played games in England, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Brown is pleased with Moreira, who has obviously gained some needed weight.  “He’s healthy  You know last year, the second half of the year, he never was healthy.  He’s come back.  His attitude has been great.  He’s working hard.”

Seniors Ryan Manuel and Cannen Cunningham also return along with sophomore Keith Frazier.  The newcomer that will see a lot of playing time is transfer Justin Martin, who graduated from Xavier.  He averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season for XU.

“He’s played for a great program and a great coach,” Brown said.  “He’s another guy I’m trying to figure out how to use him.  We need every able  body we have especially guys that can play multiple positions.”  He likes Martin’s experience.  “He’s been to two NCAA Tournaments, so he’s obviously played big games.  He just wants to be coached.  That’s the fun part.”

Brown did scoff at the notion that SMU is the favorite to win the conference.  “I doubt we’ll be the conference favorite with the National Champs in our conference.  It really doesn’t matter what people think.  We just gotta come to practice every day and get better.  We owe it to our fans.  We owe it to the school.  We want to be a special program and that’s what we strive for every day.  We write the same thing on the board every day.  ‘Play hard, play together, play smart, have fun’.  It’d be nice if we defended and rebounded.”

It’s Brown’s third year.  He says he thinks the team is more comfortable with each other and what’s expected of them.  As for the NIT experience last year, he said, “We got to play in a great tournament against quality teams.  When you played five games like we did in the NIT against good teams, you get that practice time.  It’s gotta help.  I think you’ve got to build on it.  We were all disappointed that we didn’t win every game.  The reality is that we’re getting better.  The excitement for me is the kids are excited and want to get better.”

One key to the season is the eligibility of transfer Ben Emelogu, the Grand Prairie native that transfered from Virginia Tech.  The paper work has been filed with the NCAA to waive having to sit out this season.  He’s a point guard and will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

The Mustangs are stocked with quality players at every position, except there is little depth at point guard after Nic Moore.  Ryan Manuel and Ben Moore are the two primary candidates for back-up point guard.  They can buy a few minutes on the bench for Moore, but if there was an injury or an early foul-out, the Mustangs would be in trouble.  Adding Emelogu to the roster will provide the depth at literally every position.

Brown thinks November 14 (the season opener) will get here too quickly.  He wishes there was more preparation time.  That’s a coach for you.  For fans like us, especially in view of this painful football season, November 14 can’t get here soon enough.

AND ALSO:  The SMU men’s and Women’s basketball teams will be at the State Fair of Texas tomorrow, October 13.  They will sign autographs on the Midway from 12:00 – 1:00, and there will be on-court contests throughout the day.  There will be an SMU-branded red and blue basketball court on Lone Star Boulevard ouside the Texas Hall of State.  The on-court contests will begin at 10:30 AM.

 

 

BABY STEPS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Mustangs lost again last Saturday against East Carolina, but the team played the best half of football of the season in the second half after the offense seemed to finally gel.  Late in the first half with the Ponies trailing 28-0, the offense came alive with an 18 play 79 yard drive that took 8:04 off the clock.  Three times Tom Mason went for it on fourth down and the Mustangs converted all three.  Good call Tom!  Down by 28, what did you have to lose?  Prescott Line ran the ball in from the two.to finish the drive.

Sadly, the Mustangs lined up for their first extra point try of the season after the score, which they converted.

ECU came right back with a touchdown to answer making the score 35-7 at the half.

The drive obviously did plenty for the Mustangs’ phyche.  They took a knee in the end zone on the second half kick off,.  Thank goodness!  Am I the only one tired of seeing the kick received seven yards deep run out to the Mustang eight?  The offense started at their own 25, and promptly put together another magnificent drive.  They executed with the precision of Hank Stram’s 1969 Kansas City Chiefs.

A third drive brought Mustangs back into the game at 35-21.  Obviously, East Carolina was shaken after getting stopped on their lone second half possession while watching the Ponies efficiently drive the ball into the end zone twice.  The Pirates tried to surprise the Mustangs by going for a first down on fourth and one from their own 36, but the Mustangs were ready.  They held, and the Mustangs converted the short field into a field goal that brought them within 11 at 35-24.

That proved to be all the Mustang scoring on the day, as ECU scored the final 10 points of the game to make the final 45-24.  The 21 point margin was roughly half the betting line.  Quarterback Garrett Krstich in his second collegiate start threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns completing 42 of 67 attempts.  Both were close to being Mustang records.  Garrett Gilbert completed 45 passes last year against Rutgers.  Gilbert attempted 70 in that Rutgers game, while Chuck Hixson has the second most attempts in a game with 69 at Ohio State in 1968.

Krstich was obviously enthused.  After the game, he tweeted, “Just wanna thank everyone for the support.  Not satisfied by any means but a big step today.  Proud to be a Mustang.  Love my team.”

It’s a good step forward, but the bottom line is that the Mustangs are still 0-5, though four of the opponents are ranked among the top 20 this week in both major polls.  It’s a TOUGH schedule!  The Ponies have their second off week of the year this weekend, and then are back in action on Saturday, October 18 at home against another difficult opponent – Cincinnati.  The Bearcats were the preseason pick by many to win the conference. The game time has been set for 2:30 PM (Central).

There was definite offensive improvement in the TCU game, despite the shutout.  The offense drove in the red zone for the first time all season and a touchdown was called back after a video review.  The momentum obviously carried over to last Saturday’s game, as the Mustangs doubled their scoring output for the season against ECU, and did so against a ranked team.

These are baby steps, but the Mustangs are getting better.  The schedule difficulty drops off materially after the Cincinnati game.  This team will not go winless this season.  Six wins are unlikely, but not out of the question.  It’s a tough year for Mustang football fans, but positive momentum seems to be building for next year.

 

BETTER, BUT NOT GOOD

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Make no mistake about it, Saturday’s 58-6 shellacking of SMU’s football team was bad.  Texas A&M is ranked sixth in the nation for a reason – they’re good!  That’s the biggest reason for Saturday’s score, which isn’t indicative of how much better the Aggies are.  After taking a 38-3 lead to the halftime dressing room, few A&M starters saw action for the balance of the day, and the Aggies won the second half handily by the score of 20-3 largely playing backups.

On the other hand, there were some good signs for the Ponies compared to the 43-6 embarrassment in Denton two weeks earlier.  This Mustang team did not turn the ball over.  The Mustang defense intercepted Heisman Trophy candidate Kenny Hill for the first time this season.  Certainly, the players played hard and didn’t give up as the Aggie lead mounted.

Interim head coach Tom Mason said afterward, “I’m not sitting in this chair because we were a good football team the first two weeks.  We weren’t good enough to beat that team (Texas A&M).  I don’t know if I’ve been around an SMU team that could have beaten that team.  But we played till the end, and that’s all I can ask of those kids.”

Garrett Krstich relieved starting quarterback Kolney Cassel early and contributed 170 yards of total offense.  He rushed for 33 yards and threw for 137 as he completed 13 of 24 passes in just the second game he’s played in college.  One of those passes was a 53 yard completion to Der’rkk Thompson, the longest play of the year for SMU’s offense.  Krstich also led the Mustangs inside the opponents’ 20 yard line in the second quarter, as the Mustangs ran plays in the red zone for the first time this season.  He was however, sacked five times.

Neal Burcham, the starter in game one is out for the season with injury.  Second string quarterback Matt Davis, the transfer from Texas A&M, is nursing a sore shoulder, so Krstich is the fourth quarterback utilized this season by the Ponies.

“We’ve been lacking energy,” Krstich said after the game.  “We need to bring the spark back to SMU, and my goal is to just bring energy to my teammates.”

Mason was non-committal about his quarterback situation for next week’s game against TCU.  The Ponies host the Frogs this Saturday in an 11:00 AM start.  The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.  Monday afternoon, the point spreads at eight Las Vegas betting sites favored the Horned Frogs by 31-1/2 to 32-1/2 points.

In short, this has been a killer non-conference schedule for this young team.  Mason did say though, “I still think we have some talent on this team, and that this football team can come around when we get into conference play.”  Two of the first three Mustang opponents are undefeated and ranked in the top 10 in both major polls this week.  There aren’t any more top 10 teams on this year’s schedule.

As for the coaching search for a permanent replacement for June Jones, names of potential candidates are beginning to surface.  Houston Nutt, formerly the head coach at Arkansas and Ole Miss, is definitely interested.  Offensive coordinators Chad Morris (Clemson) and Josh Huepel (Oklahoma) have been mentioned.  Morris was born in Texas and still has Texas ties in the high school coaching ranks.  Also, David Beaty, the wide receivers coach at Texas A&M, has been mentioned.  Beaty is also the Aggies’ recruiting coordinator and is known as a very good recruiter.

The team on the field this fall won’t be very good, no matter what Mason does as interim head coach.  This team is the residue of years of ;lackluster recruiting.  With 11 players on the field at a time and three units – offense, defense and special teams, it takes a lot of player upgrades to get materially better.  Mustang fans may be excited over the basketball fortunes turning around so quickly under Larry Brown, but it’s going to take some time to get football back competing to play in bowl games.

The main criteria for the next Mustang head coach is someone that can recruit better players.  The administration also needs to look at the entrance criteria.  The Mustangs have been losing good players to other private institutions like Baylor and TCU.  The football fortunes are not going to change until the recruiting improves dramatically.

The really good news is that there are just seven more weeks from this Friday until the home basketball opener.

 

TWO MONTHS TO GO

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

In the aftermath of June Jones’s resignation, football practices have been closed to the media this week, and the word is that the interim coaches are installing a new offense.  The “run and shoot” is supposedly no more.  Cynics will say that there’s no chance that an offense can be installed over two weeks (since SMU has an off week this Saturday); but on the other hand, the offense the Mustangs have utilized has gotten beat 88-6 in two games so far this year.  What the heck do they have to lose?

There is and will not be for a while any word on the direction of the coaching search.  The last three coaches have been a head man at a division 1-AA program (Mike Cavan), a coordinator from an upper echelon D1 program (Phil Bennett) and a big name (June Jones).  There is no decision as to where to pursue a new coach as the season is so early.  With the trend toward utilizing personnel search firms, coaches can discretely make their interest known through their agents without causing ripples to their current situation.

The coaching interest in the job will largely determine the direction the search will take, and Athletic Director Rick Hart will surely get strong interest in the job.  It is still a very desirable job in a desirable location, despite the inevitable awful record for this year..  Certainly basketball takes far fewer impact players to turn a program around, but fans need to look no further than Larry Brown and the SMU basketball program to see what a desirable school SMU is for top athletes and how a program can be turned around quickly.

It’s now about two months to the opening of basketball season, and for many fans, those two months can’t pass quickly enough.  The American Athletic Conference announced the conference schedule recently.  SMU will have a school record 22 games nationally televised including their first appearance on CBS since the 1993 NCAA Tournament, and the first regular season game on CBS since the 1984-85 season.

The CBS appearance will be the Connecticut game, played in Storrs, Connecticut on March 1.  Game time is 1:00 PM (eastern) and Noon (Central).  The meeting between the reigning National Champions and the Mustangs in Moody Coliseum will be February 14 at (9:00/8:00 Central).  It will be televised on on ESPN.

There are nine games on ESPN or ESPN2, seven on ESPNU or ESPN News, five on the CBS Sports Network, and the Connecticut game on CBS.

“The television schedule is a reflection of the quality of the basketball teams in the American (AAC),” head coach Larry Brown said.  “We have a chance to play great teams in great environments.  There are a lot of great opportunities to continue to elevate our program.”

The schedule includes 11 games against teams that were in last season’s NCAA Tournament.  In conference play, the Mustangs will face Cincinnati, Memphis, Connecticut and Tulsa twice each.  In non-conference play, SMU plays Michigan, Gonzaga and Texas Southern.

There are 18 home games, and shockingly, the season is sold out.  More than 5,000 season tickets have been sold.  Those of you non-season ticket holders should look to the road schedule, hope you have a generous friend in Dallas with season tickets, or belly up to the bar and pay StubHub prices.

SMU was 18-1 in home games last year, which did not include a win at the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas.  That game was considered a neutral site.  Of those games, the Ponies were 12-1 at Moody Coliseum.  All home games this season are scheduled for Moody.

The Mustangs will likely be ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation when the early season polls come out, and it is a team talented enough to realistically challenge for a National Championship.  With the way this year’s football season is going, the November 14 opening game against Lamar can’t arrive soon enough.

GOOD-BYE JUNE

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

DALLAS, Texas – Monday afternoon, the twitter, text message and E-mail universe exploded with the news that SMU head football coach June Jones would announce his resignation shortly.  When super agent Lee Steinberg, who represents Jones, tweeted the news; it was confirmation that the rumor was true.  The Mustangs are 0-2 this season, having been out-scored 88-6 against Baylor and the University of North Texas.  The Baylor score (45-0) was understandable as the Bears are deservedly ranked seventh and eighth in the two major polls this week and clearly have a tremendous edge talent-wise.

The UNT score was 43-6, with the Mustangs’ touchdown coming on the final play of the game.  Jones elected not to kick the extra point.  That score is much less understandable, as the Mean Green does not have a material edge talent-wise.  They were simply better coached and played with more energy and enthusiasm.

Late Monday afternoon, SMU issued a statement indicating that Jones had stepped down, citing personal issues.  “This afternoon, I talked to my staff and players and notified them that I have decided to resign as SMU head football coach effective immediately,” Jones said.  “I have some personal issues that I have been dealing with, and I need to take a step away so I can address them at this time”

Hart said in a press conference Monday evening that the team was both surprised and saddened with Coach Jones’s decision.  “They gave coach Jones a standing ovation, Hart said.  “It was very emotional.”

Jones departs with a 36-43 record in six years plus two games.  He led the Mustangs to one Conference-USA championship game and four bowl games, three of which SMU won.  He is clearly the most successful football coach on the Hilltop since Bobby Collins, who left after the 1986 season.

There was a lot of disappointment in Jones among alums despite his record.  He simply was not able to translate his success on the field beginning with his second season into a material upgrade of talent in the recruiting process.  SMU essentially plateaued when they beat a Colin Kaepernick led Nevada team in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl in Jones’s second season at the helm.

Athletic Director Rick Hart has appointed Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Tom Mason as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.  Associate Head Coach/Quarterbacks Coach Dan Morrison and Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach Jason Phillips were named as Co-Offensive Coordinators.

SMU President Jerald R. Turner said, “I want to thank Coach Jones for his efforts reestablishing our winning tradition in football.  I also want to thank him for his commitment to nurturing well-rounded student athletes.  June has demonstrated a real devotion to the young men in his care and to serving the community.  He has earned the respect and admiration of many all across campus and in the community, and his contributions to our program will be lasting.  He was always very visible on campus in University wide events.  He was a great University citizen as well as a football coach.”

Hart chipped in along the same lines saying, “I can’t overstate the importance to re-establishing SMU on the national scene.”

“June’s decision to resign was his own, and we thank him for his efforts and wish him the best,” Hart said.  As for the future, he added, “At the appropriate time, we will begin the search process.  It will be a national search, and we will do it the right way.  Everyone will be considered.  We will not comment on that process until we are ready to announce our selection.”

The Mustangs are off this week, and return to the gridiron with the first home game on September 20 against Texas A&M., ranked seventh this week in the AP poll and eighth in the coaches poll.  Game time has been set for that game at 2:30 PM (CDT).