While the first step on the long road to recovery was to get on the positive side of the win/loss column, Coach June Jones has loftier expectations now.
"We set a goal to go a bowl game two years ago," said Jones. "We went to a bowl and then last year we set a goal to get to the conference championship and we got there.
"Now we want to get to the conference championship game and win. We can do that."
The veteran coach earned a lot of respect for his years in the NFL and for the work he did in Hawaii to make that program great.
When the final judgment is placed on June Jones' career as a head coach, without question his greatest contribution to the game will be the turn around at SMU.
"It's been pretty awesome to see the response of the old time boosters mainly," said Jones. "SMU has sort of a lost generation because of 25 years of losing.
"There are not a lot of intermediate middle aged fans because they didn't buy into the program.
"The last two years we have won, so the kids are starting to get a feeling that they can win again.
"That feeling sort of permeates throughout the school and that is probably the most exciting thing to see.
"We're starting build the tradition up again to what it was like in the early 80s when SMU really had it rolling."
The positive feelings around the SMU program have also extended to the recruiting trail where the Mustangs have become a viable option for major college prospects.
"I think some of the response has been because of that 30 for 30 that was on ESPN," said Jones. "I think the two bowl games have given us some national exposure.
"All of a sudden we are not a name that nobody knows anymore.
"Our reception in talking with the kids and talking with the high schools has completely changed in three years.
"I am excited about the level at which we're recruiting because I believe we can compete for a lot of good kids."
The collective effort of the SMU staff is reaping benefits all across the country as the Mustang recruiting footprint expands well beyond the state of Texas.
"Our coaches have done a good job," said Jones. "I feel like some of what's happened is that we're getting calls from all over the country now.
"We've mainly focused on an area 250-300 miles from campus, but now we're getting some kids from California and different parts of the country and that's all positive."