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Straight From The Hart

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June 28, 2013

I'm glad to be back after a brief hiatus.

Since my last column, I joined over 3,300 collegiate athletics administrators at our annual NACDA convention. The Mustangs were well represented - a number of staff members were on hand to lead discussions and mine for ideas to bring back to the Hilltop. As always, it was energizing to spend time with colleagues and participate in candid conversations about the challenges and opportunities facing our industry.

Professional and personal development is vital to the ongoing success of our program. A commitment to learning, the development of a diverse peer network, and exposure to mentors are among the many benefits of establishing a best practice, forward-thinking mindset.

A lot of questions this week, so on to the mailbag and updates on the issues that are most important to you...

Kurt (Dallas): We currently have Navy as a non-conference opponent beginning in 2015 (the year Navy enters The American). I saw where we signed a long-term agreement with North Texas and we have several upcoming games with Baylor as well. Do you have plans for SMU to play a marquee non-conference opponent from out of the region like maybe UCLA/USC? We have tons of students/alums on the West Coast and having greater visibility to the PAC 12 could be to our advantage...

Answer: At this time, we do not have plans to add any west coast teams to the football schedule. Baylor, TCU and North Texas are mainstays for the foreseeable future. The remaining non-conference game, should we continue to play eight conference games, will likely vary based upon a number of factors. Schedules are more fluid than they used to be, so things could always change.

Tyler (Kouts): As an Athletic Director, do you often spend time consulting and talking to other Athletic Directors, and who would you say is someone that you have learned a lot from in this field?

Answer: One of the many things I enjoy about my job is the collegiality among athletics directors. Generally, my fellow ADs are good people. As competitive as we all are - and given that we are all trying to beat one another on game days - helping others achieve success and contributing to our enterprise are important aspects of the role. As a result, a lot of collaboration takes place. Many people have helped me during my journey as an administrator. It is a long list which includes individuals outside of athletics directors, but some of the ADs that stand out over the years are: my grandfather (former Coach/AD/Commissioner) and father (AD at Tennessee), John Swofford (ACC Commissioner/Former AD at UNC), Joe Castiglione (AD at Oklahoma), Jeff Long (AD at Arkansas), Kevin White (AD at Duke), Gene Smith (AD at Ohio State) and Chris Plonsky (Women's AD at Texas). Again, there are many more people who have influenced me; however, all of these men and women had a significant impact on my growth and development. Like my children (they teach me more than I teach them), I find that I learn the most from our student-athletes, coaches and staff. They provide daily inspiration and perspective.

Phillip (Lake City, Colo.): So many positive things seem to be in place for taking SMU to new levels of success for our fans and student-athletes. Two quick questions:

I know football schedule has been set but is there any talk of basketball games scheduled out west (Colorado/New Mexico/Utah/Arizona)? Also, any speculation on what bowl will be a home/host to the new American Athletic Conference football champ?

Answer: I agree that there are a lot of positive things surrounding our program right now, Phillip. Oftentimes, we focus on the negatives, but it is important to recognize and celebrate the many positive aspects of SMU Athletics. Thank you for that reminder! We are finalizing the basketball schedule and hope to have a presence from coast-to-coast. This season is particularly challenging with Moody offline for the non-conference portion of the schedule. (And coupled with the fact that a number of schools do not want to play us due to the fact that we are expected to compete at a high level!) We'll do our best to get our west. Fortunately, many of our games will be available via ESPN and CBS' family of networks.

As far as the host bowl game for the conference champion, we are tied into the BCS system this year. Beginning in 2014, our hope and expectation is that we will be positioned to participate in the playoff and/or associated bowls sites.

Keith (Dallas): How are football season ticket sales going? Can you share any sales figures?

Answer: Season football ticket sales are going okay. We are just shy of 8,000 season tickets and are moving about 150 tickets per week. Not bad by historical standards, but certainly not what we aspire to achieve. I am a realist and understand that a number of factors contribute to ticket sales, but our fans and members of the Dallas community play an important role in the evolution and success of our football program, so this will continue to be an area of focus for our staff.

Single-game and group tickets are also available for people not yet ready to commit to a full season. We will receive unprecedented national exposure this season, beginning with the Friday night ESPN game against Texas Tech. It will be important for the stands to be a sea of red and blue on home football Saturdays - and those Fridays, too!

Please keep your questions coming. Your input is important to me. Remember, if you have a question or concern, contact me through this form, or email us at smumustangs@smu.edu. You can also reach me on Twitter at @AD_RickHart.

Thanks to all and Pony Up!

Rick Hart, Director of Athletics

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In alignment with the educational mission of the University, we engage the community in meaningful ways and develop the resources necessary to graduate Student-Leaders and pursue championships. Above all else, we prepare Students for life.