Full House

On Thursday SMU unveiled plans to sellout 32,000-seat Gerald J. Ford Stadium for its September 5 home opener versus Stephen F. Austin. Not only that, but the goal includes setting a new stadium attendance record.

DALLAS – On Thursday SMU unveiled plans to sellout 32,000-seat Gerald J. Ford Stadium for its September 5 home opener versus Stephen F. Austin. Not only that, but the goal includes setting a new stadium attendance record.

No, it doesn't involve federal stimulus money. No, Paul McCartney won't be singing The National Anthem.

Coach June Jones and a group of influential Dallas businessmen and SMU alums are relying on something else to make Sellout 2009 happen: they believe.

"[SMU AD Steve Orsini] believed in me," Jones said to open the press conference at Ford Stadium. "The SMU people … believed in me. And I really believe that we're going to turn this corner and we're going to get it done."

"I'm really excited for our kids to come out of that tunnel and see it sold out. We're going to do it. … "It's really going to be a powerful thing."

Co-chairs for the big push and present for the announcement were Paul Loyd (SMU '68) and Bob Beaudine (SMU '77). Co-chair Carl Sewell (SMU '66) was unable to attend.

Said Loyd, "I've been here for a while and I've never been as excited as I am now."

The Mustangs have hosted three sellouts in nine seasons at Ford: two versus Texas Tech and one against Kansas in the venue's inaugural game. The stadium attendance record of 34,689 was set in 2004 when Tech turned the place into Jones AT&T Stadium Junior for a day. "There's been big crowds," Jones said, "but usually the crowds have been with the other team coming. This [will be] SMU's crowd."

Dallas Cowboy Hall of Famer Roger Staubach is one of 18 local business leaders committed to the effort.

SMU plans to bring in recruits for 2010 and 2011 for the event. In addition, Grammy-winner Rudy Gatlin will sing The National Anthem. Sellout 2009 uses a formula devised by marketer Kevin Kaplan, who also runs Jones' charitable foundation. Kaplan has overseen success with the plan at UNLV, Tulane and Rice. "The formula is a formula that works," Jones said. "And I already know it's going to work better here at SMU because of the support, because of the quality of the people who are rooting for us to get it done." The plan calls for corporate and group sales as well as topping 2,500 in season ticket sales. Head-to-head competition for Metroplex sports dollars that day will come from the new oxygen-sucking palace known as Cowboys Stadium, where OU and BYU will kickoff one hour prior to the Mustangs and SFA.

Jones said getting to a bowl game is the Mustangs' obvious goal and added it wouldhappen either this year or next. "I'll be really disappointed if we don't win enough games to go to a bowl game this year," he said. "That's a lofty goal, but I'm that way."

Orsini already has his eye on one bowl in particular: The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu, perhaps against Jones' former team. "Keep December 24th open," he said

Said Beaudine, "Our whole fan base, all the graduates, have been waiting for this one moment. When we can all of a sudden pack 35 [or] 36,000 fans into Gerald Ford Stadium, I don't think anything will be the same." "With June Jones, I believe."  

Quotable Jones
*On changes in this year's Mustangs: "Physically, our team doesn't even look the same. I think you'll notice that when you come to practice. All the bodies are different. We've got some guys that look like NFL players now."

*On what it will mean to him personally to turn SMU around. "You know, I'm not driven by those kinds of things. I really enjoy the relationships with the kids. For me, to see the look in [senior wideout] Emmanuel Sanders eyes, knowing how hard he's worked this summer, that's what it's about to me."

*On his team having a theme or inspirational unifier, like Hawaii had with its Haka dance and Polynesian pride: "They have to develop that. It's nothing I can do. … The team develops their own identity and what they're about. … That all of a sudden will just appear."


Pony Stampede Top Stories