Straight From The Hart
Nov. 1, 2013
I am a connoisseur of music. Growing up, I would oftentimes purchase entire albums just to have access to a few songs. This is a problem of the past with the advent of iTunes and the like, but it was rare to find an album that could be enjoyed by just "pushing play." Unless, that is, you waited until the artist released a collection of greatest hits.
I have been writing my column for just over six months now. I have enjoyed interacting with the Mustang Nation and addressing a wide range of topics. While I don't consider my words to be "hits," this seems to be a good time to revisit some of the most frequently occurring themes to-date.
Below, I have provided some brief comments or updates, followed by the original posting from my previous columns:
The following is a Q & A from this week. I get a lot of questions about uniforms, so I thought I would include it. Plus, everyone knows that when you release a greatest hits album you include some new material...
David L. Sanchez (Plano, TX): Huge buzz with all the new uniforms that get rolled out every week. Has to be a big recruiting play. I know it creates a huge buzz with the kids from ages 10-18+. How do schools afford this level of investment? How do you make these decisions? I strongly desire us to do this soon, but would also assume you have far more important investments needed for the program. How do you reconcile this? Is there an ROI?
Answer: Although several recent surveys with prospective student-athletes indicate that uniforms are among the most "overrated" factors in the recruiting process, there is no denying that this trend generates excitement among the current team and fans. Design, equipment and storage are expensive. Each program must decide how to allocate its finite resources.
We are working with Nike and other providers to explore opportunities to expand SMU's uniform combinations. It is important to us that the design reflects our image and brand. We will need another set of helmets (and storage for those helmets). As you correctly mentioned above, we must determine where to place such an initiative in relation to our other needs. Auctions can be held to try to recoup costs, but generally any return on investment is indirect - recruiting, fan engagement, team morale, etc.
In general, we hope to establish the design of our blue uniforms as our standard "look" - with a red and white version added. Then, if we add a second set of pants (red, blue or gray) and a second helmet we will have a variety of combinations to choose from. Of course, lock-up gloves, socks, cleats, etc. are also all part of the conversation.
We have a series of home-and-home football games scheduled with TCU and North Texas. Last week, we announced a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2018. The opportunity for our team to play in one of the most tradition-rich venues in all of college football was a significant factor in scheduling a game at the Big House. More on that game and our tentative non-conference schedule through 2018 can be found here.
From the Oct. 4 column...
Phillip (Lake City, CO): Really enjoyed reading about the "other" time you and your staff are doing to maintain creditability and trust for SMU Athletics. Those efforts are critical to SMU's long term commitment to a quality and comprehensive program. I appreciate it. Wanted to get your comments regarding football scheduling. A&M, Tech, Baylor, etc. are great to have to play against. At the same time, it is terribly frustrating to be defeated soundly by these teams. My opinion is that SMU keeps on playing these teams and, hopefully, the day will come when victory by the Mustangs will take place and then continue on a consistent basis. So, my questions are: What time of year do you schedule future games for the football team? And, is the consensus to keep playing our old SWC foes (which I support and would like to include Rice, Arkansas, UT in the mix) or is to explore new competitive territory?
Answer: Thanks, Phillip. There is a lot happening "behind the scenes" that some may find interesting. Regarding football scheduling, many games are scheduled well in advance. It's like a big puzzle. We are working on opponents for 2018-2022 right now. So, there is some guess work involved. That said, we would like to get to the point where we are playing two games against Big 12/SEC opponents and two games against local teams outside of the "power 5" conferences. In my opinion, our non-conference schedule this year (and last year and, potentially, next year) does not provide our team with the best opportunity for competitive success throughout the course of the season. I have spoken with several of our student-athletes about this and they agree. Competitive balance in the non-conference is important.
Our mission is to prepare students for life. Athletics provides access and opportunity and, through competition, our student-athletes learn lessons which complement the formal educational experience. Our admissions process and academic support services compare favorably with our peers. We appreciate the many university faculty and staff who provide guidance and encouragement to our student-athletes. SMU's academic quality provides our department with a competitive advantage.
From the Aug. 23 column...
Gary (Dallas): In the 2013 spring edition of Texas Football, June Jones stated "The process is in place."
1. Was Coach Jones referring to the recruiting process whereby SMU would be able to recruit all athletes on the same level as every other Div. 1 school already does?
2. Does SMU now have a General Studies Degree for any student at SMU who wants to pursue that degree?
Answer: I do not know the context of Coach Jones' comment, Gary. I do feel that we are positioned to compete for championships in the American Athletic Conference. The value of an SMU education, the quality of our coaches and facilities, location, residential commons, tradition and recent on-field success provide us with valuable assets for recruiting the best students and athletes to our campus.
SMU does not offer a general studies degree - nor are we interested in such a program. In today's competitive job market, it is difficult to find meaningful work without a specialized academic discipline. We are hopeful that a major in Exercise Science and Pedagogy may be added in the near future. A number of our students are interested in pursuing careers in coaching, health and fitness. Such a degree track would provide our student-athletes with the knowledge and skills required to lead a productive and meaningful life.
The university landscape has been transformed over course of the Second Century Campaign. Athletics has benefitted from the construction of Crum Basketball Center, improvements to Gerald J. Ford Stadium, the Paul and Penny Loyd Center for Academic Development of Student-Athletes, the SMU Tennis Complex (in progress but still in need of a naming gift), Moody Coliseum and Miller Event Center and golf projects at Dallas Athletic Club and Trinity Forrest. Additionally, record levels of annual operating support have been generated through Circle of Champions, Mustang Club and Excellence Funds. We must fund these projects and operating needs, including tennis, Moody and a natatorium, before turning our focus to the Indoor Performance Facility. The groundwork for such a project, however, is ongoing. We anticipate that this will be a priority project for athletics in the 2015 campus master plan.
From the April 26 column...
Austin (Dallas): What is the status of an indoor practice facility for the football team? Texas Tech (who is in the planning stages of building one) and Rice are the only other major football programs in Texas not to have one...
Answer: We are fortunate to have a supportive alumni and fan base. Their generosity has allowed us to upgrade and expand many athletics facilities over the last decade. Right now, we have several projects in various stages of development including Moody Coliseum, the Tennis Complex and Phase II at the DAC. We are optimistic about the Golf Complex at Trinity Forrest and the possibility of a new natatorium. Additionally, we have identified other needs, outside of brick-and-mortar facilities, which require private funding. So, an Indoor Performance Center remains in our plans - and we have completed a feasibility study regarding locations and space reassignments. I anticipate that our focus on this project will intensify once we meet our existing commitments.
From the April 19 column...
Bill (Hartford, CT): The Perkins Natatorium has been obsolete for at least 25 years. Nevertheless, our swimming program has been competitive and sent Mustangs to the Olympics. With a modern pool, our teams could compete for National Championships annually. What are our facility and fundraising plans for a new swimming facility?
Answer: I really do hope that we are able to provide our world-class swimming programs with an upgraded facility in the not-too-distant future. A new natatorium is included as part of the campus master plan; however, we currently lack the funding to trigger such a project. Our efforts to identify potential donors and funding sources will continue.
We sponsor 17 NCAA Division 1 programs. We strive to provide the best possible experience to all 400+ student-athletes. At this time, we do not have any plans to expand our sport offering. Like most things, that position could change with new information.
From the April 19 column...
Tom (Dripping Springs, Texas): Do you see baseball returning to SMU anytime soon?
Answer: Unfortunately, no. While I miss college baseball, our immediate focus is to provide our existing 17 sports the opportunity to consistently compete at the highest level, and our 400 student-athletes with the best possible experience.
From the April 19 column...
Sawnie (Riverside, CT): Will SMU have a D1 lacrosse program in the near future?
Answer: Lacrosse is a great sport; and it is growing here in Dallas. As I shared last week, our focus at this time is to provide resources to our existing 17 sports. Should we arrive at a point where they are all positioned to pursue comprehensive excellence, and our program is self-sufficient, we will explore sport additions.
We started this column with a goal of communicating directly with you - our fans. Your questions and feedback help us to understand better the full array of perspectives and develop specific projects and tasks to advance SMU Athletics. Please keep your questions coming. Your input is important. Remember, if you have a question, comment or concern, contact me through this form, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @AD_RickHart.
Go Mustangs and Pony Up!
Rick Hart, Director of Athletics