Southern Methodist University was a dead-on fit for a midwest conference looking to expand its hold on football powerhouses, but that was back in 1984. Now, the Mustangs -- only three decades into their post "Death Penalty" rebuild -- are making their case to the Big 12.
From right after word came out last week that the Big 12 was again looking to expand:
SMU AD Rick Hart and president Turner have expressed interest to Big 12: 'We feel that we belong and have assets no one else can offer'— Bill Nichols (@BillNicholsDMN) July 21, 2016
And now this official release, which talks up SMU athletic facility upgrades and subtly points to the school's fundraising superiority against other mid-majors. Bolding is mine:
Private gifts in support of operations have been a critical component of SMU's fundraising efforts as well. Per EADA reports, SMU has the second-largest athletics budget among non-autonomy conference schools and the second-largest football budget in the American Athletic Conference. Resources impacting the health, safety and well-being of all student-athletes have been enhanced in areas such as nutrition, mental health and equipment. SMU's 17 varsity sports are provided the full complement of scholarships, up to the full cost of attendance. All of this is possible as a result of the generous support of the SMU community. Since 2012, Mustang Club annual giving has more than doubled, from $2.6 million to $5.5 million, and donor support of operations has surpassed $40 million over the last four years.
For the fiscal year ending May 31, 2015, SMU reported $53.3 million in total athletic team revenue to the U.S. Department of Education. Of that, $16.4 million came from football. As a private university, it doesn't face the sort of disclosure requirements that would place it on USA Today's national revenue-and-expenses table, or that would make its budgetary picture a little bit clearer.
SMU, a current AAC member, could bring a large endowment (approximately $1.5 billion) and a solid academic reputation to a new league, but its athletic endeavors haven't been up to par in the past 30 years.
The Mustangs haven't won a national title in any sport since 1986, and their football program has gone just 64-130 since the turn of the millennium. While fortunes on campus have been trending upward in the past few years thanks to the hiring of coaches like Larry Brown and Chad Morris, the school's recent history runs perpendicular to the athletic pedigree the Big 12 is trying to add through expansion.
This isn't the first time SMU has thrown its hat into the ring for Big 12 consideration. The Mustangs publicly declared themselves a candidate to replace Texas A&M in 2011 before the Aggies bolted for the SEC. In 2014, the football program reportedly dabbled with hiring former Texas coach Mack Brown in order to prop him up as a cornerstone for the conference to consider in its next round of realignment. The university clearly has aspirations that reach beyond the AAC's grasp.
SMU isn't the only candidate with an underwhelming athletics record to make their interest in the Big 12 known. Tulane athletics director Troy Dannen has laid out his university's most appealing assets The Air Force Academy, which flirted with the idea of realignment back in 2011, has also been discussed as a potential addition. Oh, and there's ECU.