Straight From The Hart
Jan. 10, 2014
Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and is off to a great start in 2014!
The holiday season offered some time for rest, reflection and restoration; however, it was a busy time for SMU Athletics. In particular, two major events occurred in late December and early January: the extension of June Jones' contract and the reopening of Moody Coliseum and the Miller Event Center - for commencement and for men's and women's basketball.
First, some comments on Coach Jones' extension...
We are pleased that June has reaffirmed his commitment to SMU. As I stated in our official announcement, our program has experienced tremendous growth and success - on and off the field - since Coach Jones' arrival on our campus. He cares a great deal about our student-athletes, our university and our community.
Building a great program - the right way - requires a collective commitment over time. The university leadership began this process approximately 16 years ago when they committed to the construction of Gerald J. Ford Stadium, and continued with a series of investments aimed at better aligning SMU with peer and aspirant programs. Some examples include, but are not limited to: the Boulevard, compensation, infrastructure, private support (and, in particular, the Circle of Champions) and support services. As a result of these initiatives, and combined with the efforts of talented and dedicated people, SMU has evolved into a solid, respectable football program.
Following an extended period of uncertainly across the college landscape, we are eager to leverage our latest advancements - membership in the American Athletic Conference and unprecedented national exposure on ESPN/CBS - to further elevate our football program. Although more changes are on the horizon, primarily NCAA reform measures associated with student-athlete well-being and enforcement, the continuity and stability established in these key areas, in addition to our coaching staff, will help to facilitate our championship vision.
This clearer picture now allows us to reaffirm our expectations and standards, ensuring that they are commensurate with this new competitive environment. (UCF's Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor accelerated our conference's positioning among the upper tier.) The competitive "gap" in the American is surmountable. In fact, we were very close to being in the mix for a championship this season. If we are to take the next step in our quest to establish SMU football as a championship program, it will require increased effort from everyone associated with Mustang football - administration, coaches, staff, student-athletes, students, alumni, donors, fans, sponsors, etc.
Our pathway to excellence will differ from some of our counterparts; however, we will fulfill our vision. We must continue to steward responsibly our resources and make progress in key areas such as academics, career placement, equipment, event experience, facilities, fundraising, marketing, recruiting, and scheduling. We must use SMU's high standards, growing reputation and metropolitan location to provide our team with an advantage. We must be ambitious, yet realistic. Along the way, we will not deviate from our values or the educational mission of the university: there are no shortcuts.
Now, a few thoughts about the reopening of Moody Coliseum and the Miller Event Center...
First-class. Visionary. Inspirational. Championship-caliber. Awesome. I could stop there.
Last Saturday was a day to remember. It was special. We debuted our new facility in front of a sold-out crowd and a national television audience against a ranked opponent - and we won!
The atmosphere was electric. And it will only get better once the students return and we more fully integrate certain elements of the game day experience. (For example, game information, such as time and score, will appear on the video board as soon as that technology is installed.) Our challenge is to make days like Saturday the "norm" for SMU sporting events.
There can be only one opening day, but we look forward to many more moments of Moody Magic to come! Our basketball teams (and volleyball in the fall) are working hard to bring you a product worthy of this crown-jewel-of-a-facility. You are invited to come cheer them on and share in the journey. There are a variety of ticket prices and packages available for the remaining men's and women's basketball games. More information can be found here.
It is difficult to describe how rewarding it is to be part of something that requires so much from so many and, upon completion, impacts an entire community. My sincere thanks to all involved: the Moody and Miller families, the donors, the administration, the architects, the staff, the students, the fans in the stands, and, of course, our student-athletes and coaches! None of this would be possible without you.
See you at Moody!
Go Mustangs and Pony Up!
Rick Hart, Director of Athletics