It doesn’t matter what level of college football that you’re playing, the most successful teams are the ones who spend the money to reinvest in their facilities. That’s because, when everything else is equal, recruits are going to want to go to a school that has better facilities. UCF and USF are great examples of this. Both schools are in major Florida cities. The two are only a couple of hours drive from one another. Their age and prestige are also similar. Except, one invested in things like an on-campus stadium and indoor practice facility more than fifteen years ago. The other didn’t.
Now, SMU is starting to make major investments in their own facilities. They announced on Friday, January 21st, plans for a $100 million end zone renovation for Gerald J. Ford Stadium. It will officially be called the “Garry Weber End Zone Complex,” named after Garry Weber, a longtime donor whose foundation just made a $50 million donation towards the project. That, for what it’s worth, is the largest donation in SMU athletics history.
The project is going to build an end zone complex that is 192,500 square feet and in the south bowl of Gerald J. Ford Stadium. For those who can’t picture SMU’s home field off the top of your head, that end zone is currently all grass. The project will connect the east and west gates, it will include new locker rooms, weight rooms, training rooms, and coaching offices, among numerous other things. Furthermore, the hope is for the complex to improve the fan experience at games too.
Whatchu know about renderings? pic.twitter.com/mN7jyrymKW— SMU FootbaII (@SMU_Football) January 21, 2022
This new end zone complex is going to be paired with a new indoor practice facility. With that, SMU is investing around $125 into their football program. The timing on this is no mistake, either.
The three teams leaving the AAC for the Big 12 (Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF) are doing so because they all made investments into their football programs. The three of them are lucky to have great locations. However, they didn’t sit on that location. They, instead, spent money like a Power Five program to compete at that highest level. They were rewarded for it.
Other teams in the AAC thought they deserved the call for the Big 12 or another P5 conference too. USF, Memphis, and SMU notably all thought they might earn a spot. When they didn’t, it was a blow to their egos and how they do things. USF, for instance, immediately found the money to go ahead with their indoor practice facility, while real talks of an on-campus stadium started.
For SMU, right in the Big 12’s footprint and in a major city or TV market, these moves are the investments they’re making to position themselves for the next round of realignment. They missed the round that happened in the Summer of 2021 because they weren’t prepared. SMU intends on being prepared next time around.
Former Mustangs coach, June Jones, knew this years ago too. Jones said at AAC media days in 2014, “Schools like TCU made the decision 15 years ago they were going to enter into the arena of play they’re in now, that’s why they’re in the Big 12...SMU made that decision five, six, seven years ago, and we’re starting to be competitive on the top kids, but we really have to find kids that get overlooked, and we’ve done that.”
Now, with improving facilities to go along with a great location, SMU should be ready to make the jump to the P5. In the meantime, they should be in a position to recruit well enough to be a top-tier AAC team for the foreseeable future.