ESPN to feature SMU documentary
Published: Monday, December 6, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary series will take a look at SMU football in the 80's when wealth and greed ruled Dallas and the events that conspired leading up to the infamous death penalty in 1987.
"Pony Excess," a product of SMU film school alum Thaddeus Matula, revisits old news clips, presents numerous new facts and features special commentary from all involved, who include NFL Hall of Famer Erick Dickerson to former Dallas Morning News writer and current ESPN analyst Skip Bayless.
The documentary takes an in-depth look at the culture of Dallas at the time along with the reason why SMU was the target of the darkest scandal in college football history.
"It is a story of Dallas in its golden era, when the Cowboys were America's team, and the TV show was the world's gateway into one of the great cultures of all time," Matula said. It was a time of big hair and bigger oil, fast cars and faster women; it was an idea, a dream, and a place to dream big. Everything in Dallas was shiny and new; if you wanted it bad enough you could get it in Dallas, and every purchase financed with the currency of excess.
Almost 30 years ago, SMU ruled the college football world and was considered by many as the best team in the nation.
But how did the Mustangs get so good so fast? By cheating.
In a time where recruiting rules were broken by teams across the nation, SMU was the king, and the Mustangs were dubbed as the best college football team money could buy.
"I was eight when the Mustangs got the death penalty; it felt like my heart had been ripped out. SMU football [was] something that had been mine, so special to me [that] had been taken away. Obvious to me now is the fact that grown men at the time felt the exact same way," Matula said. "I learned the good guys don't always win, and had to question whether the good guys are truly good or whether they are good just because they are yours."
One of the main issues addressed in the documentary was the recruitment of Eric Dickerson, the lead back in the dynamic Pony Express backfield.
Dickerson, a Sealy native was considered the best running back recruit in Texas and the nation. He led reporters to believe he was going to Texas A&M and claimed the Aggies made the down payment on a brand new Pontiac Trans Am.
Dickerson however, opted to commit to SMU and boosters helped him cover the car payments and gave him a cash bonus.
Matula correlates the big economic boom in Dallas with SMU's need to satisfy a money and football hungry population.
Wins became the only thing that mattered to the University and soon the greed and power all came crashing down along with the Dallas real estate market. The city went into recession, and SMU was left without a football program for two years.
No school since has paid such a severe price after the punishment led to the team's disappearance from any form of serious contention in college football for the next 25 years.
The death penalty also led to the demise of the Southwest Conference and forever changed the game of college football.
Matula ends "Pony Excess" on a bright note by showcasing the Mustangs 2009 45-10 Hawaii Bowl victory and the job June Jones has done to turn around the once proud program.
"Pony Excess" will premier on ESPN at 8 p.m. on Saturday immediately following the Heisman Trophy presentation amid the "Pay for Play" allegations against Heisman trophy favorite and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.