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July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Today, we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. John Adams is credited with predicting that the occasion would be marked "with pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward and forever more." 

Sports have been an important and celebrated part of American culture since its inception. Sometimes, however, society temporarily loses perspective and depicts sports figures as heroes. Today, we celebrate real heroes: the men and women who protect and defend our freedom - current and former military, fire, police and other service personnel who sacrifice (along with their families) for the betterment of others. On behalf of our department of athletics, we sincerely thank each and every one of them for their commitment to the greatest country in the world - the United States of America!

Earlier this week, we celebrated our entry into the American Athletic Conference. There are many people to thank for leading this effort and helping to position SMU Athletics for advancement. Special thanks to President R. Gerald Turner, members of the SMU Board of Trustees, former Athletics Director Steve Orsini and contributors to our Circle of Champions. Their collective vision, commitment and leadership made this all possible. Thanks also to the Mustang Club, which has contributed record revenues in support of SMU student-athletes, and the Mustang Letterwinners' Association. Finally, we are grateful for the eight years we spent in Conference USA and our association with the member institutions, Commissioner Britton Banowsky and the C-USA staff. We are excited about competing in the American and believe our best days are ahead!

On to the mailbag and updates on the issues that are most important to you...

Phillip (Houston): I read where the SEC schools are all upgrading their broadcast facilities in order to broadcast in HD. What has SMU done in this regard? Is there a way to work cooperatively with the Bush Library to do a variety of programming using the equipment?

Answer: Our current facilities already allow our productions to be HD. We believe that more can be done in this area to promote SMU Athletics and provide a valuable service to Mustang fans across the globe. As a result, we are making significant investments in our multi-media operations. This includes enhanced technology and infrastructure, a dedicated staff of industry professionals, and strategic campus and community partnerships aimed at producing and distributing compelling content across the full array of platforms. A phased approach is required over multiple years; however, you can expect to see a more robust offering of digital content in the very near future.

Sarah (Dallas): Thank you for taking the time to connect with SMU fans each week! I was just wondering if we could have an update on the new equestrian center, the status of the new Western team, and - most importantly - the search for a new head coach. Pony Up! 

Answer: My pleasure, Sarah! I enjoy interacting with individuals who share my passion for SMU and SMU Athletics. I have learned a lot about the sport of equestrian this year. The highlight has been getting to know our student-athletes and coaches and watching them compete. As far as facility updates go, the potential exists for a partnership with the city as part of the Trinity River Corridor Project, but I do not have specific details to share at this time. We have added a Western team, making us eligible to complete for both Western and English championships beginning this season.

As you correctly stated, the most important thing we are addressing with our equestrian program at the moment is a transition in leadership. Haley Schoolfield did a fantastic job building a nationally competitive program here on the Hilltop. She will be missed. A national search is underway to identify her replacement. We are confident that there will be great interest in this opportunity, and we will have a new head coach in place by the end of the summer.

Have a safe and Happy 4th of July! 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