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SMU Is A Low Risk, High Reward Head Coaching Position

The Death Penalty was almost 30 years ago. You can make the case that SMU has yet to fully recover from those sanctions.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

When you say SMU Mustangs, there is only one thing that comes to mind. The Death Penalty destroyed the football program and is still showing effects nearly 30 years later.

"It’s like what happened after we dropped the [atom] bomb in World War II. The results were so catastrophic that now we’ll do anything to avoid dropping another one." -John Lombardi, former president of the University of Florida.

Even though that one punishment will always go hand in hand with them, SMU is much more of a football program than the single death penalty case. They are a 10-time Southwest Conference Champions and have one of the wildest accumulation of bowl berths of any program. That includes a trip to the Rose Bowl, four Cotton Bowls, two Sun Bowls, and a Holiday Bowl among other berths. They also claim one of the greatest players in college football history, Eric Dickerson.

The mighty SMU fell under the stress of the death penalty and have only seen the daylight of success during 2009-2012 seasons under June Jones. Even that fell apart with Jones resigning after starting 0-2 in 2014.

How does the SMU head coaching job stack up versus other jobs in the AAC?


  • A storied history. What other G5 program can claim 31 wins over Arkansas, 36 over Baylor, 13 over Missouri, 22 over Texas, 29 over Texas A&M, 40 over TCU, and 16 over Texas Tech? None. Yes, they had more chances, but SMU has a history that very few G5 programs can claim.
  • Recruiting. Bringing in a solid to excellent recruiting class means you rarely even have to leave the state. All 25 members of the 2016 class came from Texas. There are 80 players on the 2016 spring roster. 64 of those players are from Texas.
  • In one word, Dallas. Compared to many of the AAC cities, Dallas would rank among the best.
  • A national championship in 1935. That team went 12-1 and won the The Dickinson System national championship. The AP Poll would be introduced in 1936. The school also claims national titles in 1981 and 1982.


  • That whole death penalty thing. You know it is a serious cloud hanging over the entire program when freaking Time Magazine is still talking about it nearly 30 years later. The death penalty was such a tough punishment that the NCAA will never drop that hammer again.
  • Recruiting. I reserve the right to use it as a pro and con. While SMU is in talent rich Texas, it still means competing against Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech. Thats not even mentioning they other G5 programs in Texas that heavily recruit the same area as SMU.
  • Fan support. Despite going bowling in both 2011 and 2012, SMU has one of the lowest average attendances of any AAC team in the last five years at 21,290 per game.
  • At their absolute best, the Mustangs can be the fourth/fifth best team in the state of Texas. It's hard to be nationally relevant when you can't even be relevant within the state.

Making the case for why SMU is ranked just right: Marley Malenfant, UDD's SMU Writer.

SMU isn't considered a good coaching job because of its booster scandal in the 80s.

They’ve continued to try to find their footing as a program.

Since the scandal, they’ve had six coaches with a combined record of 95-215-3.

But SMU is a better job than what's perceived. For starters, Dallas isn't the worst place to lose. And if you're a coach that knows how to recruit, then Dallas is prime for local talent. SMU currently has 25 in-state commits.

SMU has made only a few bowl games in the last 20 years, and that can be discouraging. But it's a job that has everything to gain.

If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...

You love a reclamation project and are impressed with what Chad Morris has brought to the table offensively. You know that the offense is set up to score lots of points, but you will also give up lots of points. In a similar vein to Tulsa, you are perfectly ok with the common 56-53 type of shootout on a weekly basis.

You also want to stick it to the old Southwest Conference. Most of the conference will still play you on a regular basis except Texas, so you have lots of chances to make the big boys cry.

If you choose this job in real life...

You see the potential of the program and what it could do for your career. Other than the occasional run of June Jones, this job has been a disaster. You have the belief that you can change everything and turn SMU into the job it has the potential to be.

If you are able to win at SMU, it will not be long before top programs are beating down your door. Don't pretend that you see SMU as your final job, but instead as that stepping stone that lands you with one of the top P5 openings.


From the history to the location, there is no logical reason that the Death Penalty is still hurting this job. It should easily be one of the top four jobs in the conference. Should does not get you very far, so an eight place position seems just about right.

The Mustangs finally have a young and exciting coach that can turn things around. A couple of winning seasons and SMU could be one of the best jobs in the entire conference.

The list so far:

9. Connecticut

10. Temple

11. Tulsa

12. Temple