Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Stewart Mandell on SMU

Question from Stewart Mandell's July 19th College Football Mailbag:

Does SMU ever have a chance to be a football powerhouse again? Or was the death penalty literally the death of the Mustangs? What can they do to compete with other big-time football schools in the future?
--Thomas Bruce, Dallas

Baby steps, Thomas. Forget becoming a "powerhouse" for now. It would be a step up just for SMU to become competitive in a second-tier conference. The Mustangs last rose above .500 in the WAC in 1997, and now they're moving into Conference USA, which lacks a juggernaut like Boise State but on the whole should be comparable. If Phil Bennett can just get them over that .500 hump, though, and into a bowl game -- which they haven't done in 21 years -- then maybe that program could finally build some momentum.

We've seen it time and time again recently: previously forgotten cellar dwellers (such as Memphis, Northern Illinois and Bowling Green) turning themselves into respectable mid-major programs with the right mix of coaching, support and fortunate recruiting. The death penalty (or, more accurately, the gross misbehavior that prompted it) certainly put an end to any hopes of SMU ever returning to its glory days of the '30s and '40s, but it's no longer a valid excuse for why the Mustangs can't at least field a competitive program in the C-USA.

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