When you think about football in the state of Texas in 1978, you remember that as the year the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII in January, and were working their way back to the Super Bowl in the fall. But something else was happening in Dallas besides the mighty Cowboys. It was known simply as Mustang Mania. It was a promotion program on which SMU embarked that can best be described as monumental in scope. Dallas was blanketed with 100,000 bumper stickers, advertising on buses, taxi cabs, and billboards. The exciting atmosphere created by Mustang Mania takes its place as one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
Mustang Mania was a success. It even had a song written about it by Howie Newman. One verse states, "Ford can throw, Tolbert can fly, Coach Meyer knows how and sometimes why. With our kind of line, look out for the backs, And Putt Choate'll stop'em dead in their tracks." It was an upbeat country and western swing featuring some hot fiddle licks throughout. It was also carried, fittingly, by the Mustang label, a production of Major League Records. It was received with tremendous enthusiasm both on and off campus.
The campaign also included tie-ins with fast food chains, charitable organizations and youth groups. It was symbolized by Mustang Mania T-shirts, caps, ponchos, jackets, and a whole host of other items. Even celebrities like Bob Hope could be found sporting a Mustang Mania hat. Mustang fans took up a challenge to show SMU the most amazing places they were able to spread the Mania. One could even find a Mustang Mania bumper sticker on the Eiffel Tower! The Mania spanned the globe.
The program got off to a very good start as the Mustangs played TCU in the Jerry Lewis/7-Eleven Bowl, a charity football game for muscular dystrophy. The game drew 41,112 fans to the Cotton Bowl, the largest crowd to see and SMU-TCU game in 20 years. From there SMU traveled to Florida, Penn State, and Ohio State, gaining national attention for the exciting football they brought to the field. When SMU finally returned home to face Houston, they played in front of 64,871 fans in the Cotton Bowl. Mustang Mania was at its best.
The Mustangs had the largest increase in attendance of any school in the country in 1978. In 1977, SMU's home attendance average was 25,644. Considering they were playing in the 72,000 seat Cotton Bowl, a person could notice the need for improvement. By the end of 1978, SMU's home attendance had risen to 51,960. Season ticket sales also rose from 2,200 in 1977 to 5,300 in 1978. These fans never went home disappointed because Mike Ford and Emanuel Tolbert always seemed to put on an aerial display every week. The season was built upon excitement and SMU delivered.
Mustang Mania was everything SMU hoped it would be. The following season, SMU's home attendance rose yet again, this time hitting 55,758 per game. The excitement generated by Mustang Mania also helped springboard the Mustangs to new heights in college football as the era of the Pony Express soon followed. For the excitement that it brought to SMU and Dallas, Mustang Mania takes its rightful place as one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.