SMU’s Transition from Football to Basketball School

Texas is known for a lot of things, but for many people, football comes first and foremost when you talk about the Lone Star State.

So why is it that at Dallas’s premier university people are starting to talk about basketball instead of football?

At SMU, a lot has changed in the last two years to make this happen, but Student Body President Ramon Trespelacios says that Student Senate is coming up with many new ideas to keep the excitement for basketball rising.

“Before Larry Brown was here, I was one of the few sudents who actually attended the basketball games,” said Trespalacios, a senior. “I’ve never seen so much excitement about an athletic event at SMU as what is happening now. There is definitely that idea in the student body that we are changing into a basketball school. So we are just trying to keep that momentum going. There’s ideas being thrown around about creating a Boulevard for basketball. The first SMU-TCU basketball game [was] at American Airlines Center so Student Senate [rented] buses to take students from campus to the game.”

Trespalacios and the rest of Student Senate were hard at work this year coming up with ideas to get people out to see the basketball team play, even before the Moody Coliseum renovations were complete. These ideas included selling beer and wine in the stadium (which Athletic Director Rick Hart recently announced would happen this season), putting a Kiss Cam in the arena, organizing cheers, and creating an organization like Mustang 11 for basketball.

At senate’s annual Town Hall meeting last week, SMU head basketball coach Larry Brown fielded questions from students. While he was not in favor of Boulevards for basketball, he did support any other idea to get people excited about the games.

“My observations about Boulevards is that kids stay out there and don’t come to the game. So that would worry me a little bit,” Brown said. “But I’m for anything that will bring kids into the arena. I think we’re going to have beer, so that might bring them out.”

Experts are all looking at the SMU basketball team to be on the upswing this year. Recently, ESPN ranked SMU basketball as the eighth deepest team in the country. Meanwhile, the SMU football team has yet to make any sort of impact on the national scale. According to EJ Holland, the editor of Scout’s SMU website Pony Stampede, the problem is simple.

“It all comes down to effort,” said Holland. “From the first day Larry Brown got here, he said he was going to bring in Kentucky and Kansas-type kids, and he has. Brown and his staff always seem to be flying around the country checking out recruits and maintain great relationships with their targets. And Brown has some of if not the best connections in basketball. Players respect his resume, and that’s why he’s been able to land guys like Emmanuel Mudiay and Keith Frazier. The football staff just hasn’t put in enough effort on the recruiting trail.”

It is hard to argue that in his less than two years at SMU Brown has drastically turned around the basketball team, but the Hall of Fame coach’s success in that short period of time is starting to excite the campus about the team.

While the excitement for basketball continues to grow, the football team was a disappointment this year. Their 1-3 record to start the season was gloomy, even to the experts.

“As far as football, it appears the program has peaked under [head coach June] Jones,” says Holland. “I don’t really see them being better than mediocre until a new staff is put into place.”

While SMU did record its first sell out in Ford Stadium history this year, freshman Greg Hopkins has been disappointed with attendance at football games during his first year at football. Ryan Kaul, a senior minoring in sports management that attends all SMU home sporting events, was able to see a reason why SMU fans do not end up at the football games.

“SMU fans are so focused on a good time at the Boulevard that many don’t even care about the game,” said Kaul. “They aren’t all bad fans but we have a majority that doesn’t care enough to go anywhere after getting drunk.”

Perhaps greater success than 7-5 records and appearances in the Hawaii Bowl would help the football team draw in a bigger crowd. The SMU basketball coaching staff, however, has put together a team that will win games and draw crowds. And in Texas, winning trumps all.

Construction on the Mood Coliseum will complete before the Mustangs make their debut there on Jan. 4 against UConn.

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