SMU's push for the Big 12 is on. Last week, Rick Hart and R. Gerald Turner both expressed interest in the Big 12 saying SMU offers something no other candidates could. Well, they're on the path to ensuring that argument holds up.
SMU recently announced plans to construct a new Indoor Performance Center, an outdoor natural grass football practice field and a new soccer stadium, another sign of the University's commitment to competing at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics. These plans come on the heels of amazing success during SMU's Second Century Campaign, when SMU Athletics secured more than $191 million in gift commitments, and after 18 months of careful planning and design.
"This is a transformative plan for SMU Athletics and another tangible example of our commitment and desire to compete at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
The first step in the transformative plan was the hiring of Chad Morris in 2014, who has recruited well, shown improvement and has the team poised to see more improvement. Morris just needed more to sell to recruits as the college football arms race and competition for recruits only got tougher.
A bowl bid from Morris and his staff, plus being able to show real progress on facilities, that's a winning formula.
The Indoor Performance Center (IPC) will feature a full-sized football field and indoor 300-meter track, and will be located on the current track and soccer field site. In addition to use by the football and track programs, the IPC will also serve as a resource for other student and campus activities and events. A new outdoor natural grass football practice field will be adjacent to the IPC. The new soccer stadium, to be used by SMU's men's and women's soccer teams, will be located on Mockingbird Lane, the site of the current practice fields. These projects constitute Phase 1 of SMU Athletics' Facilities Master Plan, a $150 million comprehensive facilities investment that will serve the needs of all 17 sports and 400-plus student-athletes.
Preliminary renderings can be seen here.
That doesn't even include the roughly $60 million for Phase 2, which sources told PonyStampede.com last spring was already drawn up and includes a massive expansion to the Loyd All-Sports Center. Those improvements will include new football offices, weight room, locker room and meeting rooms. In addition, a party deck and expansion to the suites in Ford Stadium would be included.
That's Power Five spending. The commitment from the top of the university has been made. One source said, "once Turner gets focused on something, it gets done."
Much of Turner's focus had been the successful $1 billion Second Century Campaign and now, with another round of expansion looming, Turner, the Board of Trustees, and SMU Athletics are turning their attention to the final piece of their athletics puzzle.
"Our commitment to competing for championships and enhancing the student experience requires continued investment in student well-being and our people as well as our infrastructure," said SMU Director of Athletics Rick Hart. "SMU and its donors and fans have made huge investments in athletics in recent years, and these projects are yet another step forward for our department."
SMU's massive commitment to athletic facilities is there. The quality of academics is there. SMU also rekindles past Southwest Conference rivalries.
SMU would secure the Big 12 market of DFW with the addition of SMU to the Big 12. Currently, SEC and PAC 12 schools continue to hold multiple games a year in AT&T Stadium and poach some of the top recruits in the country from DFW. DFW is not Big 12 country anymore. If you're the Big 12, why would you not want to pitch a DFW recruit on playing a few minutes from home once or twice a year. That's something to sell.
Without a Big 12 network, it's all a ratings game and don't you think Fox/ESPN would rather sell Texas vs. SMU rather than Texas vs. Connecticut, UCF or Memphis? It's easier to sell. There's history, there's tradition.
Also, cost of travel would go way down for each school if the Big 12 added SMU. That's also a plus.
There's plenty of work being done by SMU behind the scenes. There's a long way to go, but this commitment goes a long way.
From SMU's release:
Lead and cornerstone gift pledges, representing 80% of anticipated construction costs, are actively being pursued in support of this project. The expected completion time is 16 months after construction begins.
From 1995 to 2015, SMU directed approximately $1.2 billion campus-wide toward facility construction and renovation, furnishings and equipment. New construction in support of athletics includes Gerald J. Ford Stadium, the Loyd All-Sports Center, the Crum Basketball Center, the SMU Tennis Complex, the Miller Events Center and short-game course and indoor hitting bays at the Dallas Athletic Club. Numerous facilities and spaces have been renovated as well, including Moody Coliseum, the football offices, football locker room, team meeting rooms and football player lounge. In total, since 2001, SMU has invested almost $200 million in athletics facilities.
In February, SMU broke ground on the Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center/Barr-McMillion Natatorium, a new 42,000-square-foot facility that will feature an Olympic-sized, eight-lane indoor pool with a platform diving area, four springboards, a 10-meter tower, coaches offices, locker rooms and a classroom and meeting area. In partnership with AT&T and the city of Dallas, SMU is nearing completion on Trinity Forest Golf Club, an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Coore & Crenshaw, Inc., which features a world-class practice facility, clubhouse and practice academy for SMU's golf teams. In addition, current projects in progress with expected completion this summer or early fall include, replacing the Ford Stadium turf, renovation of the men's basketball locker room and team lounge and resurfacing the track.
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.
In addition to opportunities to contribute to the Indoor Performance Center and Soccer Stadium projects, gift and naming opportunities remain for Moody Coliseum, the SMU Tennis Complex featuring Turpin Stadium and the Brookshire Family Pavilion, the SMU Golf Complex at Trinity Forest and the Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center/Barr-McMillion Natatorium.
Those interested in investing in SMU Athletics are invited to contact Kurt Pottkotter at 214-768-3639 or firstname.lastname@example.org.