Yesterday morning I received an email from Middle Man by way of THEFINCH linking to a post on Ponyfans.com entitled “You wanna know the difference between TCU and SMU? Here..” Clicking on it, I assumed it would be some sort of “TCU is dumb and has no integrity/SMU is smart and is the most noble football program in the country” situation because that’s basically their only fire power when it relates to the post-Death Penalty version of the rivalry. It's not like they've had much on-field success or anything. Naturally, I was not disappointed – other than a bizarre, D-post worthy scenario outlining the pampered lives of TCU athletes, they basically outline how TCU is far more user friendly towards their athletes when it comes to keeping their grades up by offering educationally deficient classes and that Patterson can strong arm any and all administrators to keeping his good players eligible no matter the situation whereas SMU struggles to balance athletic success and academic reputation. And, honestly, they're probably right. But what they’re saying is basically the same thing you could say about any University with a successful football program. Concessions are made. It’s just the way it goes and the only people that bitch about it are the schools who can’t play the game to perfection.
But then I read the dateline of the post and became kind of curious – the thread originated in November of 2003, back in the early stages of the Phil Bennett era who was June Cometh before June actually did, well, come. So why would one of our commenters submit a message board thread from nearly seven years ago to inspire hate? Well, how about first you familiarize yourself with the past week of goings-on over on the Hilltop.
Starting from the beginning, the irony of the post is what should jump out at your first – SMU fans are criticizing TCU for presumably giving athletes an easier road to a degree (or really, just eligibility) to enable football success... then they call for their school to do the exact same. Green with envy doesn’t even begin to cover it. And can you really blame them? Every school outside of a very select few would give back any historic successes they have had in order to have a fraction of what TCU has experienced since 1998, SMU especially. As excited as they were about beating an undermanned Nevada team in the Hawaii Bowl, can you imagine what it’d be like if they had played in even the Texas Bowl or, wait for it, Poinsettia? Pandemonium, I tell you!
And while it’s certainly cute in hindsight to check out the optimism of the Bennett era SMU fan - one commenter suggests that the 2003 SMU recruiting class was the highest of any non-BCS school per Rivals. Fact Check? 62nd in the nation, right behind Lousiana-Lafayette, Central Florida and Temple, among others. Thanks for playing! - the underlying meaning of the post is certainly jarring once you consider how the very thing they criticized us for is what may keep their football program from reaching the highest of heights.
On that note, why SHOULDN'T a school offer classes that are geared towards athletes? It's not like non-athletes can't take them too. Being a college athlete is essentially a non-paying full time job. I don't know about you, but I never worked in college - my bourgeoisie family would NEVER allow someone with a trust fund the size of mine to mingle with the common people, after all - and, considering all the work I had to put into upper level classes as my time at TCU wore on, I can't even imagine doing any more rationing. So why not give these guys a break and help them get a degree at the same time? Especially considering a lot of guys who come through college on a football scholarship may not have gone otherwise and are, in many cases, the first member of their family to attend college.
Besides, unless you're going to med school, as long as you have a piece of paper saying you graduated from college, that's the biggest hurdle you'll face in the job interviewing world. So if you're not going to pay them - a practice I'm ALL for - why not help them out on the back end?
But anyway, off topic, so where was I...
So schools blanket offer kids all the time.; in Houston Nutt and Nick Saban’s first year’s at Ole Miss and Bama, I want to say they almost doubled their scholarship allotment with offers. But, these kids know what’s going on. They understand that they may not end up making it to campus and that they better leave their options open come signing day. But, we’re talking about major state school SEC programs here that kids dream of playing for their whole lives! Not SMU, where most football players attend because they weren't good enough to be recruited by a premier football school. Besides, those situations aren’t exactly linear with what just happened at SMU.
In case you didn’t take my advice to catch up on the current proceedings, here is what happened: SMU offered a bunch of kids scholarships within the scholarship limits. Over half ,17 to be precise, of these students were considered to be “borderline candidates” academically – getting a few talented dum dum athletes in the ranks? Congrats, Ponies! You’re movin’ up! – and were referred to an SMU evaluative subcommittee. Two of these athletes, Jeremy Hall of Brenham and Darryl Jackson of Long Beach, California, were then told that they would not be admitted to SMU. Reasonable, right? I mean, if you don’t make it, you don’t make it and then maybe you explore your other options or take a greyshirt and come back the following semester after taking some JUCO classes.
The problem with this thinking? SMU just told the students last week.
After they had already packed and were preparing to come to campus.
Thus, they weren’t exactly given the option to evaluate other opportunities.
There will be rumblings out of their administration suggesting that the school warned these two players that there was a chance they may never make it to campus, thus exonerating themselves from the ire of the rational thinking world, but from what I’ve read it appears that both players were caught entirely by surprise at the news and had no preconceived notions that they may have to look elsewhere to further their playing careers.
My natural reaction to this story is, of course, to hate. If this is true and if SMU was aware that these two athletes would not qualify under their standards – and it is said that Hall was told his SAT scores were too low which, if this was the case, the school had to have known his scores for quite a while before cutting him – then it’s an absolutely foul move on their part not to let the two kids in on the situation and allow them to seek out scholarships elsewhere. Hall’s family had already committed a sum of money to move him to Dallas this summer so that he could take part in summer conditioning, and the fact that he allegedly had his bags packed and ready to head north should tell you that he probably wasn't preparing for this news.
The main problem with SMU is how they view themselves. I don’t care about our academic reputation vs. there’s. Regardless if SMU is rated higher, I honestly don’t think employers look at an applicant with an SMU degree and one with a TCU degree and, if all things are equal, pick the SMU kid unless the employer has some sort of direct link. The fact that Texas Tech graduates are capable of success should tell you all you need to know about what your $100,000 piece of paper really means in the world.
But SMU people honestly believe that their school is a stalwart academic institution that should be mentioned in the same breath as Harvard and Yale. I hate to break the news, but just because you charge as much as those schools and your student body is comprised of wealthy kids from the northeast who weren’t smart enough to get into a true Ivy and pick SMU does not mean that you are an Ivy League school. And the sooner the SMU administration understands this, the better off their football team will be. SMU can’t have their cake and eat it too – there’s a reason why prestigious private schools like Rice and Vanderbilt are consistently battered around on the field of play. Sure, they have the occasional outlying successful season, but for the most part they focus their attentions on academics with football success just being icing on the cake when it comes.
In the Ponies defense, most of their fanbase is in a pretty substantial uproar about this, and for the right (read: football) related reasons. They’re not pissed that these two guys aren’t getting an education; they’re pissed off that SMU denied admission to two athletes who could help lead the Mustangs to on field success and they’re pissed off that SMU has now alienated Brenham High School, one of the most perennially successful programs in the state. Not to mention what happens when word spreads that SMU is in the habit of denying recruits admission at the last minute. They have one successful year in twenty five and they’re starting to think like fans of a football school should. This can only mean good things for the rivalry going forward.
Of course I'm joking about the football reasons being the "right" ones because, truthfully, how sad is it that these two guys who were apparently heavily relying on football to pay their way through school now may be shit out of luck? Those NCAA commercials with the tagline, "... and most of us will be going pro in something other than sports" are uber lame, but they're true.
Honestly though, reading these developments just kind of makes me feel bad for the Ponies. I know this is absolute blasphemy, especially coming from me, and they have such a terrible, atrocious following that they deserve everything they get, but just look at the recent history: They pay Craig James and Eric Dickerson, among many others, and ride them to national success only to be caught and given the harshest penalty ever doled out in the history of NCAA sports. Not to mention that every other SWC school was doing the exact same thing; SMU just happened to be the fall guy. So their football team loses its way for 25 years, thus allowing the school to focus their attention more towards academics and making SMU the "Harvard of the South" or something like that. And, as their program was pretty much DOA until last season, that seemed to be the smart move. So this gave a legion of SMU fans the ammunition to (hilariously inaccurately) downplay TCU’s success under Patterson because, hey, at least SMU was going about it “the right way.” Then, they hire June Jones away from Hawaii and build up all of these expectations, only to get creamed during his first season on campus, making him the worst way to invest $2 million outside of a Bernie Madoff Hedge Fund. Jones then works his magic in year two and the Ponies finally build some genuine momentum heading into the 2010 season, only to have the academic reputation that they’ve touted for so long come back to bite them in the ass. Realistically, losing these two players probably isn’t going to cost them any victories this year, but if they develop a reputation as a school that pulls scholarships at the eleventh hour, they’re going to have a hard time convincing top tier recruits to come to Dallas unless they make a renewed effort to show them where the white women at.
And while you let that digest, ponder this – SMU’s own student newspaper released a series this past spring exposing a handful of negative facets of the University that they try to keep under wraps, including the failings of their athletic department which has lost a shocking $93 million over the past six years. This amounts to 40% of the tuition amount paid by students over the same period. And while this is absolute pocket change when compared to the collective trust funds of the SpitBlood nation, it’s a crap load for an athletic program – more than double the median loss for a Division One school. Worse yet, the athletic department wouldn’t even release the financial information, so the Daily Campus had to circumvent that avenue and find it out behind the scenes. And to top it off? Once they confronted Athletic Director Steve Orsini with the figures, he couldn’t come up with anything beyond “I don’t know” as to why the athletic department was losing so much money.
SMU is in arguably the worst catch 22 situation of any University in the country. It’s well obvious that for a school that doesn’t have a robust academic reputation, having a successful athletic program is the best way to attract students. This is why the University of Oklahoma is still accredited and accepting applications. Of course, by “successful athletic program” I really mean “football program” and in order to have a successful football program you have to spend a lot of money. However, when said football program was blasted into oblivion by the NCAA 25 years ago and has yet to fully recover, you get very little return on your investment. So the school newspaper exposes this, students and alumni bitch that you’re charging all of this money for them to attend school there when all you’re doing is pissing it away in your athletic department, and then all the stuff from this past week happens and you cannibalize your football fanbase who was already skeptical of your motives in the first place. And your Athletic Director is too incompetent and clueless to respond.
Pardon my French, but Gee Whiz!
Normally I’d attempt to fill in something positive here along the lines of, “But things are looking up…etc” but, I'm truthfully not sure that it is. Besides, I’ve bestowed enough pity on those jackasses for one lifetime, so I think I’ll just speak for everyone here on the topic of SMU’s self fulfilling prophecy of suck and say: