As of July 1, 2013, SMU will officially be a member of the Big East Conference.
University President R. Gerald Turner stated the above Thursday afternoon at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center in front of SMU students, faculty, alumni, fans, coaches and media as the school celebrated its admission into a BCS conference.
Everyone in attendance, including Big East Commissioner John Marinatto, cheered.
"In college athletics, there's really what we call two levels," SMU Athletic Director Steve Orsini said after the celebration. "There's the AQ-BCS level and there are others. Now SMU is back at the top plateau of college athletics and the sky is the limit."
National relevancy has been something SMU has been trying to achieve for over 25 years. It's been a struggle, but the school, led by Turner and Orsini, have made the necessary moves to put SMU in a position to be the best in all aspects.
"We want to be Top 25 – or better – in everything we do," Orsini said. "This [the Big East] is a step in that direction."
Orsini said that his main goal since becoming athletic director was to put SMU athletics back on the map.
"No. 1 on my wish list when I got here was this day," he said. "To get us back to where we were [before the Death Penalty]."
Orsini explained that back in the 1980s, the "pendulum" had swung all the way to the athletics side. After the Death Penalty, it did a 180 away from athletics to focus on academics. Now, he explains, things are leveling out.
"And now, we want to win, too, and we're on our way," he said. "We want to be relevant on the highest level. My wish list now, I've checked the big one off the top and that will help us check the rest of them off."
Simply by being a member of the Big East, the University will generate more money. Orsini said he isn't exactly sure what the number will be (as there could be more schools added to the conference by 2013), but it will be a significant amount more than the school was allotted before.
So what will the school allocate that new money towards? Well first, Turner and Orsini will have meetings as far as which funds will be used towards academics, etc. and which will be used towards athletics, but Orsini does have a few things in mind.
"We have a master plan for athletics facilities that's not complete," Orsini said. "Indoor practice facilities, academic support for student athletes…things that will raise the level of competitiveness. We're going to get a lot more money, but we'll probably run out of it before we get everything done."
Some of that money could even be used for new sports at SMU. To be as competitive as the other Big East schools, SMU may add a baseball, softball, men's track and field or maybe even a lacrosse team, which would of course come at a cost.
But that's far in the future. Right now, Orsini and Co. are just so happy for what the school has achieved in joining what Marinatto deems, "the NCAA's first true national conference."
"And I think we'll blossom," Orsini said.
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