Straight From The Hart
Sept. 20, 2013
While the majority of the Mustang Nation is understandably focused on our competitive results this time of year, the athletics administration and staff spend large portions of our days ensuring that we are sound in several areas which don't receive a lot of outside attention - unless (until) there is a problem! Institutional integrity, fiscal integrity, academic integrity and issues related to health, safety and well-being create the foundation for our competitive success. Each of these "pillars" is riddled with complexity and significantly influenced by individuals and organizations outside of our department. As a result, they require regular assessment, proactive management and broad oversight. Anything less can lead to circumstances capable of bringing everything else tumbling down to the ground.
This month alone, I have (or will have) participated in meetings, presentations, conversations and training related to the above topics with the following internal and external constituent groups: SMU Board of Trustees, BOT finance committee, BOT athletics committee, office of the President, President's Executive Council, Athletics Council, faculty representatives, office of university finance, General Counsel's office, outside counsel, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, AD staff and coaches, athletics senior staff, the athletics business office and the athletics compliance office. These activities represent just a portion of our efforts to develop and promote a culture of integrity and accountability both within and outside of our program.
Not listed, but relevant to issues involving oversight, is an event set to take place here in Dallas next week: the Division 1-A Athletics Directors' Association annual meetings. The primary agenda item for discussion will be the state of our industry and, in particular, how best to move forward together. A lot has been reported lately about the NCAA governance structure. Topics range from the divisional/sub-divisional model to deregulation initiatives to rules to the enforcement process. All of this, and more, will be vetted with guidance from individuals representing the perspectives of conferences, presidents, faculty and television.
So, while we will all follow with interest the passing, kicking, running and spiking taking place on the fields, pitches, courses and courts this fall, a different kind of activity is occurring (mostly) behind the scenes to position SMU, and college athletics, for continued and even greater success.
And now, to the questions and topics most important to you...
Luis (Via Twitter): When are we going to upgrade Gerald Ford Stadium in preparation for entry into an AQ Conference? (Big 12, ACC, etc.)
Answer: In the absence of information regarding specific upgrades you have in mind, I can only respond that Ford Stadium very much meets our existing and short-term needs. It is on par with many of the "AQ Conferences" across the country. In fact, I can think of a number of programs which would trade facilities with us in a heartbeat. It's a beautiful 32,000-seat stadium in the heart of Dallas that offers a great fan experience. Over the last several years, we have replaced the video board and sound system, installed new turf, expanded the locker rooms and, prior to this season, added additional suites and a second club area. I agree that we need to continue to invest in our programs to improve continually the student-athlete and fan experience; however, Ford Stadium is not among our perceived or real "weaknesses" when it comes to positioning for future growth and success.
General Question: While not attributable to any particular person, we have received several inquiries about football kick-off times this season.
Answer: Fortunately, we are now in a position where the majority of our games are considered for national television (three of our first four games have aired nationally already this football season). One drawback to this step forward is that games times are typically set about two weeks prior to the game. So, for our next home game - Rutgers on Saturday, October 5 - the kick time should be released on Monday, September 23.
Speaking of the Rutgers game, this will be our first (ever) football game against an opponent from the American Athletic Conference. In recognition of this historic event, a number of special events will take place. We will reunite Mustangs of yesteryear and give a nod to the past as we usher in a new era of SMU Athletics. Commissioner Mike Aresco will be on hand to flip the coin as fans drink from commemorative cups and the team charges the field wearing `80s-era blue throwback jerseys! That's right... buy your tickets, bring a friend, wear your blue and cheer on Dallas' team as conference play and the chase for a spot in a BCS bowl game begin!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach me on Twitter at @AD_RickHart.
Go Mustangs and Pony Up!
Rick Hart, Director of Athletics