Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Calling All Athletic Supporters

By Jeff Konya, Associate A.D. for Compliance

(not exactly what I meant)

Al Gore’s Internet can be a wonderful and strategic tool (this is the space where you, the reader, could choose to insert a political joke). With it, several companies have sprung up and prospered while others like socks.com wilted and died (which is interesting to me since I lose a sock in the dryer at least one a week).

One of the more successful niche industries on the web is job placement services (i.e., Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com). This concept has made its way to the level of the college student-athlete, and SMU has just aligned with careerathletes.com to be a virtual, 24-7 job placement center for all things SMU Athletics. Once you click here, you will be taken to a world where all current and former SMU athletes can register and post resumes, cover letters, etc.; where employers can list advertisements for permanent jobs, summer jobs, part time, full time, internships, etc. earmarked for SMU student-athletes; and where alumni and other SMU professionals can sign up to be mentors. The site is a SMU restricted community, and all participants have a distinct interest in the welfare of the SMU student-athlete. We, in athletics, are very excited about the potential for this website, and it is already receiving rave reviews from Mustang family members who have already registered and passed the word on. Please be on the lookout for a massive email campaign to help get the word out about this initiative (click here for a preview of the two emails that will be sent out: one for student-athletes and one for would-be employers/mentors). Of course, should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at jkonya@smu.edu.

As great of a service that this website will give, it would be a huge disservice if this is all the services that the athletics department provided for our student-athletes in terms of their future job placement. That is why the athletics department has contracted to bring Competitive Resources Group (CRG) to the SMU campus from February 27-March 1, 2007. The purpose of CRG’s visit is to formally educate all SMU student- athletes on issues related to job searches. Specifically, the company will discuss such topics as proper interviewing skills, effective resume writing, networking principles, professional etiquette and information on how to compare companies. CRG is the largest and most established career services company that targets student-athletes, and last year, they visited over 100 campuses.

And now to completely change gears . . .
In Richard Sweet’s last blog of February 14, 2007 (where he was searching for his glasses), he sent a verbal Valentine’s barb my way that references a spelling error I had made in my first blog submission. I am a big boy and can take the criticism (even though I had originally thought the blogs would be proofread by the blog gatekeepers). But, in reading his blog, I came across the following phrase - this group will ultimately will reshape our future – and unless Richard knows some unique rules of the English language, this is a glaring grammatical error. I dare say though that Richard is doing a great job, and personally, I can’t wait for the next marketing campaign slogan and try to figure out what the play on words/songs is. Perhaps, next year’s football team will be described as “Mustang-licious,” or that we should all join the “Mustang Parade” and buy season tickets.

Last Download- “Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis

Friday, February 16, 2007

Chest Bumpin'

by Rhonda Rompola, Head Women's Basketball Coach

One of the things we stress the most within the women’s basketball team is “family.” This is true in our office and, of course, within our team. Team unity is what makes us go, and it’s what we’re all about. I thought I’d share with you a few of the ingredients of this year’s team bonding experiences.

One of our most fun experiences happened on our trip to Cancun just before Christmas. It was a great trip – we won our first game, then lost to the #1 team in the nation, Duke. No shame there. But it’s what happened on the beach that was most memorable. See – our players got a little cocky and challenged the coaches to a game of beach football. Seems they thought they could easily overpower us “oldsters.” But we had a surprise for them and the coaches won! It was a lot of fun for both sides, and definitely a good experience that brought us all closer together.

After a tough four-game losing streak in January, we decided to get the players’ attention with two-a-day practices for two consecutive days, starting at 6 a.m. Unlike the beach football experience where we coaches felt we showed the team a thing or two, this time the team showed the coaches a thing or two. The girls not only showed up, but they showed up bright eyed and ready to go with a “can do” attitude. These were some of the best practices we’ve had all year.

Before Thursday's game, Sharee Shepherd, our resident team cheerleader and spirit raiser, made me promise that if we beat Rice, I’d “chest bump” her after the game. Well, we did, and I did, and this was my first chest bump ever! The team and the coaches all loved it, even though I must admit I had to pull Deneen aside beforehand and ask her exactly how to do it.

You never know what’s going to happen during the season that’s going to draw you together, but something always does. Team unity: it does a body good.

Student-Athletes, Coaches & Deans, Oh My!

by Vicki Hill, Director of the LEC

Just finished dotting all of the i's and crossing all of the t's on a new protocol for how student athletes will (and won't) be permitted to drop classes. Very satisfying to come up with something that meets the needs of our student-athletes, our coaches and the Associate Deans in each of the four undergraduate schools. Every semester our student-athletes must satisfy two distinct definitions of satisfactory academic progress - SMU's and the NCAA's - and sometimes what works for one doesn't work for the other. Dropping a class can be short-term quick fix for an immediate problem but lead to far greater problems later. The new protocol builds in a step of more focused academic counseling and standardizes the eligibility review. (Don't you hear Jeff Konya saying thank you somewhere in the background?)

Speaking of Jeff, his office's new strategies for helping student-athletes transition from the university to the workforce look very exciting. I hope all of you will go to the compliance website and check out what's up.

Had good news to report at Wednesday's head coaches' meeting: 198 student athletes with cumulative GPAs of 3.0 and above, and and all-sports cumulative GPA of 2.901. Since spring grades are almost always better than fall grades (those first-year students do have to settle in), I think it’s quite likely that by the end of the summer, our cumulative GPA will be above 3.0 - At least that's the goal.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I’m A Little Busy Right Now…

By Craig Shaver

I think I left you last time telling you a little about our annual Mustang Club fund drive. We are now off and running and things are really going well. In our second week of the campaign, we have had an incredible amount of renewals and also a good group of new members. The teams that are working the fund drive are really hitting it hard. Earlier this week, we had our first phone-a-thon and, man, did it go great. We had a group of about 16 callers come up to the stadium club and dial for dollars. In a matter of a couple of hours, we had raised close to $25,000. Now that’s what I’m talking about! Mustangs at work!

We had one caller that called a lady on her cell phone and she was actually in labor at the time! Despite that “distraction,” she still asked the caller to send her the information and she would for sure join after she finished the task at hand. Now that’s a true Mustang Fan. Hey, do we get a two for one on that deal??

We in Athletic Development really want to set some records this year in our annual giving and Mustang Club membership. The Mustang Club is such a vital part of the Athletic Department and we need everyone to help out. That means YOU! We need all the members and financial support we can get.

Last year, we ranked 10th out of 12 in Conference USA in our annual giving. That is so unacceptable for a University such as SMU. We need to be leading the conference not only on the playing field, but in everything we do. This includes our annual giving. Let’s take some pride in our University and blow these other schools out of the water. “Top 25 in all we do” is the slogan we live by in the athletic department. Let’s take this thing to the next level and really stand out in Conference USA. Until next time, GO MUSTANGS!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Has Anyone Seen My Glasses?

by Richard Sweet

Lost my glasses yesterday... I try not to admit it but I’m getting to the point I need to wear my glasses all the time... just got them a couple of years ago... yep, I’m getting old... but not as old as this building I’m working in. Right now, a few of us in the Athletic Department (including Steve Orsini) office in Moody. Moody is a wonderful old building but it is ready for a face lift (has been for years). I have a small office in the ticket area that reminds me of the 1950s... school room windows... some sort of steam heater that heats when it’s hot outside and doesn’t heat when it’s cold outside. Makes for a rather difficult working environment... but hey, I’m okay with that right now because I know that in a few weeks we’ll begin our move to the Loyd Center at Ford Stadium and the change will be night and day.

Our changing work environment is very much symbolic of the changes that are happening all around athletics at SMU. It’s a work in progress and the changes don’t happen immediately. There is a light at the end of this tunnel... I know you think it’s the train... but this time it’s not. There is a feeling of change but this change takes a lot of work. Steve has assembled a group of people that are working late hours to change processes, budgets, goals, the culture... this group will ultimately will reshape our future. It’s an interesting mix of individuals with diverse professional backgrounds working with a few people that have been around for a while and know SMU and its history well. With this group, we will be “top 25” in everything we do.

Continue to watch as new buildings like the Crum Center emerge, a renovation of Moody begins, and all Mustang teams battle for championships. Again, it’s a work in progress but it is happening. The future looks bright.

Now I need to find those glasses so I can see what I just wrote... hope I didn’t misspell anything... would make me look too much like our compliance guy...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl ‘Stangs

by Steve Orsini

Just a quick word of congratulations to Jim Irsay and the Colts on winning the Super Bowl last night. As I mentioned in a recent post, Jim is an SMU grad and was a member of our 1978 football team. He continued his support of SMU after his graduation, creating a scholarship at SMU for Indiana students.

SMU now has two alums that have hoisted the Super Bowl Trophy - Jim Irsay and Lamar Hunt. How many schools can say that?

And speaking of Lamar, it was great to see his wife Norma out at midfield for the coin toss. Norma and Lamar had attended each of the previous 40 Super Bowl games together - including Super Bowl IV where Kansas City topped Minnesota - and I was so happy to see her at the game.

On the heels of “Super Sunday,” we hope to have a “Super Wednesday” this week for National Signing Day. I know Coach Bennett is excited and I am, too. Come out and join us for our Signing Day event starting at 5:15 p.m. on the 7th at the Radisson. Coach Bennett will talk about the class and then we’ll all head over to Moody for the men’s basketball game as we host Houston.

Until next time, GO MUSTANGS!

Hayden Fox: A Precursor?

By Jeff Konya, Associate AD for Compliance & Student Services

Last week, I had some insomnia spells, which led me to channel surf at 5 a.m. On USA, they were showing a 1994 episode of the show “Coach” with Craig T. Nelson (see cast picture). In this particular episode, Coach Hayden’s team was coming off a championship winning campaign and the new season was just starting. During the summer he hired a personal PR consultant to get his name, Hayden Fox, to become as popular as Taco Bell, and he took lessons in “spinning” (where he could answer any questions from the media in a positive manner through the art of deflection). The plot centered on how Hayden unsuccessfully tried to balance his personal fame with the needs of his struggling collegiate team. In the end, the question that was left unanswered was whether the public perceived Minnesota State football simply as the “Team Coached by Hayden” and nothing more. In effect, he had become more important than the institution, or the student-athletes that represented that very institution. And just last month, a NCAA institution hired a football coach for $5 million per year.

Of course, in watching the TV show, I also spotted a would-be NCAA violation involving extra benefits (i.e., Dauber (played by an actor, Bill Fagerbakke, that attended SMU, BTW) giving an athlete money so he could take his girlfriend out). But, I want each of you to have this unique “violation spotting” ability, so the Office of Compliance Services has digitally “re-mastered” the SMU compliance website. I invite you to take a look at the enhancements here. The objective was to make a user-friendly website not only for the Mustang fans, but also for SMU coaches, staff, athletes, employers, and boosters. In this regard, you can see the same compliance forms, rules, issues, etc. that invade college athletics on a daily basis.

Like the website, please also note that the Office of Compliance Services Staff has been modified recently. Broadus Whiteside has been promoted to the SMU Director of Compliance. He was a former football student-athlete at Newberry College and received a Master’s Degree from Troy University. He has been working at SMU for several years as the Assistant Director. Also, Jackie Babich has been hired as the new Assistant Director of Compliance. A former diver at St. Bonaventure University and graduate student at Marshall University, Jackie brings a wealth of athletics and compliance experience to the office. I am excited to work with such a dynamic staff.
In the words of the immortal Hayden Fox, “This is all I can give you at the moment, and it better have been enough.”

Last Music Download – “Karma Police” by Radiohead.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Cell Phones & Signing Day

by Phil Bennett

With Signing Day coming up, I get a lot of questions about what this time of year is like for a coach. I’ll admit that this is a stressful time, but the majority of the work has been done already. When it comes to recruiting, the visit is the key.

When we get a kid on campus, we try and show him everything – the academic stuff, the athletic stuff, the social stuff. It’s all important. This is your big chance to connect with a kid. When they leave, you’re always worried that you missed something and then you’re putting out fires because other schools may point out different things. You have to constantly check in with kids to see how’re they’re doing. This is how, by the way, I completely blew out a cell phone last week. Honest to God, I talked on it so much, it overheated and broke. I had to get a new one!

Once you get a kid to commit, you really need him to tell other coaches that the “race is over.” The problem is, coaches don’t always listen. They’ll come back to a kid, try to get him to rethink his decision – “Well, you know, they’ve got this kid at your position and he’s only a sophomore… You’ll never play there…” and so on and so on. When it comes down to it, a commitment is just words, so that’s why you have to recruit them as hard at the end as you do at the beginning. As a coach, you can never relax – and that’s why Feb. 7 can’t come soon enough!