Notebook: SMU-Big East celebration

Now that the Mustangs are officially headed to the Big East, Athletic Director Steve Orsini says his top priority is to focus on improving attendance at all SMU sporting events.

Now that SMU will officially be a member of the Big East come 2013, athletic director Steve Orsini says his top priority is to focus on attendance.

For lack of a better word, there's no denying that SMU's attendance is terrible. For football senior day, a crowd of 14,442 was announced at Ford Stadium, which can hold a max of 32,000. At Wednesday night's conference basketball game against Houston, there was a crowd of 1,939. Moody Coliseum has a capacity of about 9,000.

"Attendance has now become our No. 1 objective," Orsini said. "Revenue will increase exponentially the first year of [Big East] conference play so instead of mainly focusing on generating revenue – and we'll always focus on that – we can focus on attendance. That will be our No. 1 objective for SMU athletics moving forward."

Orsini mentioned a list of other important areas the school will need to step its game up in, like recruiting, performing, facilities, etc., but he always came back to emphasizing how crucial it is that SMU have better attendance for all sports.

"It starts with our inner circle, which is the students," Orsini said.

A marketing department is in the works as well.

Maintaining that AQ status

With all the unknowns surrounding the future of the BCS – the current contract ends in 2013 – there is concern that by the time SMU gets to play in its first BCS conference, the automatic qualifying status will be gone.

No one knows for sure what will happen, but conference commissioner John Marinatto is confident the Big East will maintain its AQ, or something like it, depending on how the landscape changes.

"We've worked very hard over the last four months to ensure that doesn't happen," Marinatto said. "There have been lots of discussions about AQ going away and the new model might not have that. Regardless, we're so confident with the membership we've put together that there's no question in our mind that we're going to be in that category."

Rivalries will keep conference together

Another reason Marinatto thinks the Big East will have success nationally and be able to maintain its AQ status is because of the rivalries in the conference.

He's referring to the likes of SMU-Houston and UCF-USF.

"Quality football is what will drive this conference," he said. "The rivalries will drive the brand of the Big East."

But will people really sit in front of their TVs to watch those games? Will they care about those rivalries? Time will tell.

Importance of keeping June Jones

After everything that happened last month with June Jones and Arizona State, the football coach will indeed be staying on the Hilltop to lead the Mustangs into the BCS.

"All of us are thrilled to have June Jones as our head coach," Marinatto said. "He's played an instrumental role in putting SMU back on the map."

Indeed he has. Banners surrounded the Hughes-Trigg Student Center that read, "Three Bowls in Three Years."

Orsini said that during the drought that was SMU football from the Death Penalty onward, conferences wouldn't return his phone calls. But with Jones taking a 1-11 team in his first season at SMU to three straight bowl games, including two victories, people began to answer the phone, giving him a chance to sell the school.

"It all starts with success and in this case, with football," Orsini said. "[Jones] showed against Pitt that we're legitimate and a contender. For him to do what he's done in such a short period of time, he's made us relevant in national discussions."

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