Thursday, September 10, 2009

The State of SMU Football with S

While I am away in Indiana today, enjoying some time with the Hoosiers, my sweet husband S will be taking his first try at blogging. Be kind to him. Oh, and I should point out I just uploaded some random game shots for him before I left town. So he had no control over the photos he had to choose from. So don't blame him when they are lame. OK? Here we go!



First, I must thank A for allowing me the opportunity to take the helm. I am keenly aware of the awesome influence this blog has on the lives many. Her insight, humor and amazing photographs have entertained, encouraged and enlightened us over the past year and will certainly continue for many more.



Today’s rant will focus on the state of SMU football. As a proud Alumnus of the university with a few receipts to prove both attendance and payment in full (yes, A has 3), I feel somewhat qualified to spout meaningless nonsense about this establishment. As a native Dallasite, I can remember our last heyday in the early 80’s and even had an economics class in the very room where the death penalty was announced later that decade. As a member of the Mustang Band in the early 90’s I proudly supported our team while wearing polyester in shades of red and blue. But today, I must admit I am tired.


Last Saturday, Amy and I attended the season opener at Ford Stadium, named for the Dallas banker and not the former President, against Stephen F. Austin. While we both enjoyed the pre-game festivities along the boulevard, my interest of the game waned early in the first quarter. Yes, SMU did manage to win the game against a team of a lesser NCAA division, but their performance on field was pathetic.



Since the death penalty and no football on the hilltop during the ‘87 and ‘88 seasons, SMU has enlisted five coaches to guide this once storied program to prominence again. In that time, we have only experienced one-yes one-winning season. Yet, our latest installment, at the tune of $10MM over 5 years, is to be the one who can finally break through the barrier that has haunted us for over twenty years.



During that time, SMU has managed to produce a rather successful athletic department winning both conference and national championships in several of the 16 other sports it fields. But for the one played on the gridiron-the one that somehow continues to generate the most attendance-even minor success eludes us.



If one analyzed this collection of teams as business units, one could argue continued investment in the football program should cease and resources should be allocated elsewhere. Applying the Boston Consulting Group's Growth-Share Matrix, the football program is a Dog and is tying up cash that could be better deployed elsewhere. Unless such Dogs provide a strategic purpose, they should be liquidated.



Is such a statement extreme? Yes. Will it occur? Probably not. But greed landed us in this position and the reality is we just might wander aimlessly in the desert of mediocrity, never destined to reach the Promised Land again.

Thanks for giving me the day, A, and A's readers.

The Ate Up One will see you again tomorrow.

11 comments:

  1. Good job Sam. Interesting remarks to accompany the photos. You are on your way to "blog land."

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  2. Let me start by saying that I have been to one game in the last three year (and that was here in Houston).  I don't even watch them on TV anymore because it is not compelling to invest time in a team that can't get it together (when tcu, rice, and baylor seem to be going along nicely).  So, while I understand you sentiments, I think you are applying the growth-share matrix improperly.  In your model, "wins" is the sign of profitability/success.  But you are using an economic model where money is the measure of success.  I suspect that football still generates more money for the university than all other 16 sports combined.  To put it in business terms, the product may be mediocre but it still brings in revenue, so we keep working on it.  Is it throwing good money after bad?  Perhaps.  But the alternative may be throwing no money at all....just a thought.

    Dave

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  3. Dave, I agree.  Where would we be without SMU football?  We have all learned to cheer our hearts out for first downs!  I prefer to think it has instilled a bit of eternal optimism in all those graduates after 90’s.  I still hope that each and every time they step out on the field it will be different than the last.  Besides, everyone knows it is the band and camaraderie everyone goes for!!

    Nicole

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  4. Well, S, I definitely share your pain.  I have plenty to say, and it make take an additional post.  I have attended the vast majority of SMU games over the last 13 years (2 when I went back and marched and 11 as the Voice of the Mustang Band).  Note that I did not say "watched."  Watching SMU football became too painful for me years ago.

    What makes it particularly painful is seeing how successful TCU has become.  Remember that shortly prior to the death penalty, TCU received what was then the harshest sanctions ever levied.  Those sanctions really set back the TCU program.  And ever since they went 1-10--and remember, that one win came against us when we needed one win to go to a bowl game--TCU has found a way to build a consistent winner on the verge of being a national power.  Meanwhile, SMU has floundered--and that's being kind.

    Part of the problem has been poor decisions in the athletic department.  I was not a fan of the Cavan hiring, but I thought it could work out.  When that didn't, I did not like the Bennett hiring.  All along I thought Charlie Waters was the right choice.  Still, I was willing to give Bennett a chance.  He is a great coordinator and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, but he was bad as a head coach.  The athletic department also made huge mistakes in giving Cavan and Bennett big money contract extensions when they did not deserve them.  SMU had to pay Cavan big money when he got fired, and that in turn hindered the search for a new coach.  And what did Bennett ever do to warrant giving him an extension?  Nothing.

    More to follow...

    Charles

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  5. Nicole--Many of us (myself included, obviously) go to the games mainly for the Band, but the athletic department has systematically reduced the Band's role the last few seasons, and many people in the athletic department really don't want the Band there at all.  That's a long story, but it's true.

    David--I think you are right about the revenue generation, but I'm not sure.  I don't know if the football program has made or lost money in the last 10 years, but I can tell you that it has not generated anywhere near enough revenue to fund much else.  Such financial concerns were a major factor in the elimination of the men's track team.  The men's track team won 3 national championships in the 80s and was consistently in the top 10 during that decade.  When the admissions standards got more difficult for athletics, Coach Wollman still found a way to keep the team always in the top 20.  And yet, the most successful program (in terms of national championships) got axed.  As a member of the track team from 81-84, I'm still upset about that, but that's another story.  The point is that the crappy results on the football field have negatively impacted revenue and thus the entire athletic program.

    That being said, I'll side with you on the "keep working on it" front.  Not having a football program at all has been shown to have a negative effect on the entire university, and I don't see the elimination of football as a viable option.

    Charles

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  6. let me clarify....I was not suggesting that football was profitable (I don't have to see the books to know that it's probably a money loser). I only pointed out that football raises more revenue (in donations and tickets) than the other sports, so the business model may not be the best choice for challenging the program's existence

    Dave

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  7. And let me clarify by stopping my rambling and ranting long enough to say I agree with your points. :-)

    We have a bit of a Catch-22 situation. A perennially poor-to-mediocre football program actually drags down the entire athletic program (by not producing enough revenue and helping fund other programs), but without football you lose the biggest revenue generator that could possibly in the future provide much more revenue.

    Charles

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  8. Sam, congratulations! You did a great Substitute Blog and I laughed out loud. Oh, excuse me -- LOL. You even have something like 8 comments already which is really great. Back-and-forth discussion and everything. I think A is going to have to let you take up a permanent post in her substitute blogger stable.

    Karen

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  9. I originally applied the BCG example of growth (seasons wins) vs. market share (conf./div I rankings as a whole). In that mindset, we have had little success on both fronts. If examined from a cash perspective, I would argue high cash usage and low relative cash generation (in other words, if successful we could generate much more) and therefore a question mark according to BCG. I downgraded them to a dog as we have thrown plenty of cash with little results over the last 20 years. I have not seen the financials, but would not be surprised if we operate in the red. Yes, the program generates more money than probably all the other sports combined. But, what if we had a boulevard before basketball, soccer or swim meets?

    We only stayed into the third quarter on Saturday to watch the bands. But, it does seem their existence is almost a nuisance to some in the athletic department. At one point, they even had the audacity to play canned music over the band. I guess I have finally joined my wife’s position of not supporting the athletic department financially; yes, the dream of club seats has faded. Instead, we will continue to send our checks, while small, to Meadows and the History Department – ironically named for Clements who helped us get into this whole mess.

    S

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  10. Woo hoo!  I have vowed to place more comments/discussion because I do follow regularly!

    Nicole

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  11. The solution is obvious: start paying the players again.

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