It's time for another academic year on the Hilltop! Practices (and scrimmages and exhibitions) are underway, students are moving into the Residential Commons and classes begin on Monday. It is an exciting and inspiring time to be on campus.
The summer months were filled with activity - at the institutional, conference and national levels. At our annual American Athletic Conference meeting in May, we celebrated a successful inaugural year, highlighted by a BCS Bowl victory and national championships in men's and women's basketball. The bulk of our time, however, was spent discussing NCAA governance reform.
In June, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) convened for our annual meeting. This provided an opportunity for peer-to-peer engagement as well as a formal discussion with NCAA President Mark Emmert and select members of the NCAA Steering Committee. These interactions were collaborative and encouraging. SMU Athletics was well represented among the other professional service organizations, exchanging ideas and returning to Dallas with an expanded "toolkit" to help advance all areas of our program.
In July, I participated in an annual AD "Think Tank" led by Dutch Baughman, director of the 1-A Athletics Directors' Association. Due to the small group size, these conversations are always candid and meaningful, adding perspective to the discussions at the conference and national meetings.
In August, the NCAA Steering Committee formalized their recommendations on the governance redesign to the NCAA Board of Directors, and U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken issued a 99-page ruling on the O'Bannon case. Although both processes are ongoing and lack clarity in some areas at this time, one thing is for certain: the cheese has moved!
Overall, we feel the conference, and SMU, is well-positioned for continued success. In particular, barring an override, the Division I FBS structure will be maintained, as will our Board seats, and current scholarship limits (as in number of scholarships permitted by sport). We support this redesigned model and its rationale and welcome any enhancement of the student-athlete experience and increased student-athlete welfare. It was important that we find a way to distribute additional resources to student-athletes. It is the right thing to do. We remain committed to providing SMU student-athletes with access to a quality education and a meaningful college experience.
The areas of autonomy have been defined and specific legislation will be ratified in January. The New York Times provided an excellent overview of the areas of autonomy, included here for your reference.
I have heard from some of our fans who are concerned by this issue. There are aspects of autonomy that are not well understood at this time. We will follow the process closely as proposed legislation is introduced and more specific details emerge. We expect that student-athletes will continue to value the opportunity to attend SMU, live in Dallas and compete in the American Athletic Conference. At the end of the day, this redesigned model allows our programs to continue to compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics.
Before the 2014-15 seasons begin, the 100th season of SMU sports, it is important to take time to celebrate key accomplishments from the previous year. As such, SMU Athletics is pleased to share our 2013-14 Annual Report. Some highlights include:
In the classroom, 31 student-athletes earned SMU Honors Recognitions in the fall semester, meaning, at minimum, each ranked on the top 15 percent of the student body. In addition, 202 SMU student-athletes were named to the Athletic Director's Honor Roll for earning GPAs of 3.0 or higher in the spring semester, and 181 student-athletes currently maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better - a number which represents nearly one-half of the student-athlete population. Perhaps best of all, 70 SMU student-athletes walked across the stage at graduation.
On the playing surfaces, four teams captured championships in our first year as a member of the American Athletic Conference and 10 teams advanced to the postseason. Individually, our student-athletes claimed 19 conference championships.
In the community, SMU student-athletes logged over 2,300 hours of service, exceeding the equivalent of an entire year's worth of work. The community reciprocated with unprecedented support, making it possible for our student-athletes to pursue comprehensive excellence. The Mustang Club collected contributions totaling a record $3.3M - surpassing our annual stretch goal of $3.25M. In total, athletics was the recipient of over $22M in total fundraising revenues, including more than $10M in support of operations - besting the previous high of $8.9M. We are very grateful for the generous contributions of our loyal donors.
Football season ticket sales have hit record levels! As of last week, we have sold 3,331 new season tickets, with total sales eclipsing 11,000 for the first time in Ford Stadium history! The first home football game is Saturday, September 20, against Texas A&M, so there is still plenty of time to purchase season, mini-plan and individual game tickets.
As always, I invite you to contact me if you have questions, suggestions or concerns regarding the direction of SMU Athletics. Your feedback is important and appreciated.
Go Mustangs and Pony Up!
Rick Hart, Director of Athletics