First, the required reading:
Gosselin: SMU AD tasked with finding coach for 'worst major college football team in America'
Rich Hart "Straight from the Hart"
There is also a ponyfans.com thread detailing a short segment by Norm Hitzges on the Ticket this AM, basically recounting Gosselin column. Norm seem fixated on the following two quotes:
“The really good ones are going to see this is a great job. It’s better than a lot of jobs at the so-called P-5 [“power five” conference] level. And coaches understand that. So we’re going to have a great deal of interest, and I suspect we’ll get a great coach.”
“Look around the landscape. Duke’s successful. Stanford’s successful. Vanderbilt, Northwestern … schools like us. I realize that academically we’re going to have to overcome some things to get those kids to choose SMU. But when you look at our setting in Dallas, the campus, the investments that have been made … now get a dynamic staff in here. That’s what we need.”(emphasis mine)
Norm's issue, and it is an easy one to pick at, is saying SMU is a better job than some power 5 jobs. His other beef is the comparison to certain successful, academic-minded private schools, noting they are all in "Power-5 Conferences."
OK. Fine. I am willing to concede Nick Saban is not leaving Alabama for SMU; David Cutliffe isn't leaving Duke; former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin isn't leaving Penn State for SMU either. That isn't really the point.
The point is SMU is a Division 1-FBS head coaching job, of which there are only 120+ jobs. Roughly, between 15-20% of such jobs are ever open in any given year. A significant number of those openings are filled by poaching coaches from the other Division 1-FBS schools. Really, then, you are looking at 10-15 jobs that can go to assistants, former coaches, etc.
Relative to non-Power 5 schools, it is hard to do better than SMU. SMU is in a top 10 market. SMU is in the most fertile recruiting area in the most heavily recruited state in the country (this makes June Jones' lack of recruiting success all the more maddening). SMU has the resources to be successful (again, this makes June Jones' inability to have a staff with a pedigree all the more maddening). Some may point to facilities and I will suggest we would be a lot closer to having an indoor practice facility if June Jones had been more flexible in its location (seriously, we moved the stadium lights in a week to accommodate his whims; who really thinks SMU won't give the coach appropriate resources?).
The criticisms of the job are as follows:
1) The team isn't very good. Well, this is true. Nearly every job opening is a reclamation project in one form or another. This isn't really a fair criticism.
2) No. SMU has really not been very good at all. Yes, but June, for all his warts, did establish that you can win at SMU. Period. 4 consecutive bowl games, winning 3. Play in a conference championship game. .500 or better in 4 of the last 8 years. This isn't the dredge of a job that Bennett and Cavan were hired into.
3) Academic restrictions! Please, for the audience, articulate the current restrictions that make it difficult for SMU to compete. The floor is yours. Nobody can properly articulate this because it is no longer the case.
In 2014, SMU is beat on the field by kids that could have received offers to play at SMU and be admitted. Period. Further, this is largely true going back to the last years of Phil Bennett. June Jones won with Bennett's recruits. In 2006, SMU would have gone to a bowl had Phil Bennett not been out-coached the last game of the season against Rice, losing by 4 with the ball in the red-zone at the end of the game. Of course, the outcome of the Rice game would have been moot had SMU beaten 3-9 NTSU that year.
4) Crappy conference. Unless you are P-5, you are in a crappy conference. Of all the crappy conferences, I am confident the AAC is the best crappy conference to be affiliated with in the short term. Only the AAC remains committed (Pres. Turner reiterated this) to adopting policies in lock step with the Power 5. This should present an advantage over other non-P5 conferences.
In brief, I will say what I say every time SMU has to go through the hiring process. To those that wave their hands and cry to the heavens, "Oh whoa is us, who take this horrible job?", the answer is "SMU will hire someone with a resume better than most of us can reasonable expect."