Thursday, November 30, 2006

We Are Committed

Let me start off by saying this – we remain fully committed to building a winning football program at SMU. During my annual end-of-season evaluation of the football program, I identified many areas that improved and Coach Bennett presented a plan that will allow us to continue to improve. I am convinced that Coach Bennett is capable of implementing this plan that will help us reach our goals of going to bowls, winning conference championships and returning to the top 25.

As the Director of Athletics, I know that we did not reach our goals in 2006. Coach Bennett and I both said before the season that we should reach a bowl we both still think we should have reached that goal. But while we didn’t quite get there, I think we did continue to improve.

The future is bright for SMU football. For the third straight year, we improved our win total and our overall talent level continues to increase. We have a great nucleus returning (nine offensive starters and seven on defense), including C-USA Freshman of the Year Justin Willis and four other student-athletes that were named to a C-USA-high six spots on the All-Freshman team.

There is a commitment to winning on the Hilltop and I truly believe that we are ready to take that next step. Stay tuned for updates on our plan and check back soon for info on all our other great sports on the Hilltop.

Saddle up with the Mustangs – there’s about to be a stampede toward success.

Monday, November 27, 2006

It's What We Always Do...

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to update the blog last week. I hope everyone had a nice holiday. The Orsini family certainly has a lot to be thankful for this year – most recently the opportunity to lead SMU Athletics to its full top-25 potential.

Now onto what I’m sure you’re looking for – info on our football program. With such a large amount of speculation out there, I want to correct some misinformation that is circulating. First and foremost, Phil Bennett is still our football coach. As I stated earlier, we evaluate all our programs at the end of each season. This year is no different. Phil and I have been meeting to discuss the football program. When we’re finished, I’ll meet with Schellas Hyndman, John Cossaboon, Dave Wollman and Lisa Seifert to talk about our soccer, cross country and volleyball teams. Right now, people just seem to be reading too much into our meetings.

Our goal is to have top-25 programs in all sports – including football, men’s and women’s soccer, cross country and volleyball. I meet with our coaches to discuss the progress of each sport and talk about what areas we need to address to move forward. We will have winning programs at SMU and we will sustain that winning.

On a different note, our men’s basketball team will play host to the Paul Quinn Tigers tonight at Moody Coliseum at 7 p.m. We have won the first two games of this homestand, knocking off Dayton – the same Dayton team that just beat Louisville - and Louisiana-Monroe, and hope to keep the streak alive tonight. Come out and support Coach Doherty (who will be evaluated at the end of the season!) and the Mustangs tonight.

See you at Moody!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

So Close...

Well, Saturday certainly was a heartbreaker. It seemed like we were just one or two plays away from continuing our run for a Conference USA Championship. But while it wasn’t meant to be this year, we can still reach our goal of earning our first bowl berth in 22 years. One could easily lose sight of the bigger picture, so let’s refocus – we still control our own fate when it comes to making a bowl game. It starts this weekend with Tulsa.

On Saturday, we will be honoring 20 seniors who have put in hours and hours and hours of hard work to represent our university. These young men kept fighting when we went 0-12 just a few years ago and are now on the verge of taking us somewhere we haven’t been in two decades. I say they deserve our support and I ask you to come out and show them how much you have appreciated their efforts.

And while we’re talking about bowl games, we need you there for another reason. I’m sure there will be bowl representatives on hand this week (three bowls were represented last week) and we need to show them how much we support our Mustangs. You, too, can play a big role in our successes this season.

We’ll also be holding a food drive for the North Texas Food Bank this weekend. Just bring a canned good donation and get a general admission ticket for $5. If that’s not an inexpensive way to spend a fun Saturday afternoon, I don’t know what is.

On the hardwood, I want to congratulate Coach Matt Doherty and the Mustangs on their 2-1 start to the season. After picking up two wins to open the season, they dropped a hard-fought decision to Florida State last night, but I still think the trip was a big success. While I’m not big on moral victories, to play on the road in a hostile environment against a team getting votes for the top-25 and battle them to what was, in essence, a two-point game shows just how far Coach Doherty has brought this team in just a few months. I think the future is pretty bright. The team will return to Moody for our home opener on Saturday night at 7 p.m. against Dayton.

Make Saturday a double-header – come to the football game and stay for the basketball game. I’ll even make it easy (and cost effective!). Just take your ticket stub from the football game to the ticket window at Moody and you can come to the basketball game for free! How great is that?

On the women’s side, we’ve started 1-0 and will host Sam Houston on Friday night at 7 p.m. in Moody. Coach Rompola has us headed in the right direction. As a matter of fact, to encourage you to check them out, just come on Friday and show a ticket for Saturday’s football game and you can come to the women’s game for free, too.

So, with $5 football tickets that will also get you into men’s and women’s basketball games for free, you can see three exciting college sporting events and entertain a family of four for an entire weekend for $20. I just don’t think you can beat that deal.

In soccer action, our top-ranked (that’s right, No. 1) men's soccer team returns to action tonight when they host UC-Santa Barbara in an NCAA second-round Tournament game at Westcott Field. Kick-off is slated for 7 p.m. It’s really important that you come out and cheer on Coach Hyndman and the student-athletes as we go for our second-straight College Cup appearance.

And finally, while it may not get the media attention that football and basketball (and even soccer, for that matter), we need to congratulate SMU junior Rachael Forish for taking first place at Saturday's NCAA South Central Cross Country Regional. In a field of 108 participants, she won by nearly 10 seconds. Rachel also won the Conference USA Cross Country title nearly two weeks ago and will now advance to the NCAA Championships, Nov. 30, in Terre Haute, Indiana. Rachel’s accomplishment is a great tribute to the hard work that she and her teammates put in throughout the year. They are tremendous representative of the school and we could not be more proud of their efforts.

Until next time… GO MUSTANGS!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Model Of Success

Many of you have probably seen that I have added two new people to my senior staff this week – Richard Sweet and Jeff Konya. Richard will head up our marketing and brand building efforts and Jeff will handle compliance issues as we move towards our goal of being top-25 in all we do.

I will say that being able to hire someone like Richard away from a top company like Southwest Airlines says a lot about the commitment to athletics here at SMU. Adding someone with so much experience from such a successful company will be a huge boost to the redevelopment of the SMU brand.

As a side note, Richard is a great guy. He has tremendous business acumen, a true passion for SMU – having been a student-athlete here - and a pretty good sense of humor. Check out his blog from the Southwest Airline site here. Hopefully, his sense of humor will carry over after I post these then and now photos...

Richard’s hire is also another step in our efforts to improve the business enterprise of the department. We still have a few more positions left to fill, but I think that you will see commitment to a model that will allow us to make the most of our resources, to increase revenue, and to make our program more attractive to our students, alumni and the broader community.

From an internal standpoint, having a top compliance person is imperative. With an NCAA manual that’s 700-plus pages thick, running a compliance office can be a bit tedious, but we are committed to winning with integrity and Jeff is a great guy who I know is up to the task. He is well-respected in the field and is great at his job. He’s so well-liked at Memphis that, when he announced his resignation, John Calipari and Tommy West went to their University president and asked him to find a way to keep Jeff. He will truly be an asset for SMU. And like Richard, Jeff is a former student-athlete, having played football at Princeton. Now if I can just get Princeton to send me an action photo...

On the field, as I stressed on Monday, it’s VERY important that you get out to the game Saturday. The DMN had an article on our bowl and conference championship chances yesterday, noting that if we can win out, we’ll be in the C-USA Championship game.

Let’s get it done – on the field and in the stands. Buy your tickets here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Controlling Our Destiny
Nine games into the season, we control our own destiny. We can’t ask for more than that. If we can win our final three games, we will represent the Western Division in the Conference USA Championship game. How exciting is that? I, for one, can’t wait for Saturday and our Homecoming game against C-USA Western-Division-leading Houston.

With two straight BIG home games in Ford Stadium, it’s again time for our plea – COME OUT AND SUPPORT THE MUSTANGS! We have a chance to win a conference championship and reach our first bowl game in 22 years. We need you in the stadium – and bring along your friends. We think we have a great product over here on the Hilltop and we want more and more people to experience gameday at SMU.

Here’s my version of the “Top 10 List”:

The Top 10 Reasons You & Your Friends Should Be At The Game On Saturday
10. SMU controls its own destiny for a C-USA Championship.
9. SMU hasn't lost at home this season.
8. With a win, SMU becomes bowl-eligible.
7. It’s the only Division I game in town.
6. The Boulevard
5. Houston is coming to town and word is they’re bring buses of fans and their band – Let’s show ‘em our SMU Spirit!
4. It’s affordable.
3. It’s family-friendly.
2. It’s right in the center of Dallas.
1. It’s just plain fun.

By all means, get to the game Saturday. For tickets, click here.

On the hardwood, congrats to both the men’s and women’s squads for opening with exhibition wins. Please join us for the Hoops Happy Hour to tip-off the 2006-2007 basketball season on Wednesday, November 8 at 6 p.m. at Maggiano's Little Italy in North Park Mall. Matt Doherty and Rhonda Rompola will be on hand to talk about the upcoming season and, since it will be national signing day, their new recruits as well. Just RSVP to Hayley Shalley at 214-768-2582 or

And finally, congratulations are in order for our men’s and women’s soccer teams, as each earned berths into the NCAA Tournament. Our No. 2-ranked men’s team earned an automatic berth by winning the Conference USA Men's Soccer Championship title (our sixth tournament title since 1997), while our women were an at-large selection.

Being one of the tournament’s top seeds, our men received a first-round bye and will host the winner of the UC Santa Barbara-San Diego State match on Wednesday, Nov. 15, here at Westcott Field, while the women will head down to College Station to take on McNeese State on Friday, Nov. 10. Stay tuned for kickoff times.

For a men’s bracket, click here, and for a women’s, click here.


Friday, November 03, 2006

A Big Weekend On The Hilltop

On the Hilltop, where our football team has jumped out to its best start in a decade, remains in contention for the C-USA Championship and moves closer to our first bowl berth in 22 years, the hoops season has begun.

Last night, our women’s basketball team opened play with an 84-59 exhibition victory over the Houston Jaguars. They’ll play their final exhibition game Monday evening at Moody at 7 p.m. before starting the regular season. I have high hopes for our women’s team this season. While we’re still a young team, after playing a lot of freshmen over the past couple of seasons, our team has some experience to build upon. The preseason Coaches’ Poll picked us to finish second in the league and I think we can compete for a conference championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.

On the men’s side, I am on the record stating how excited I am about having a former National Coach of the Year on the sidelines. Coach Doherty’s enthusiasm is contagious and I think he will do great things on the Hilltop. He has this year’s team fired up and ready to go and he’s also doing a great job on the recruiting trails. Coach and his team will make their debut on Saturday, Nov. 4, when they play Houston Baptist in a 7 p.m. exhibition at Moody. Come on out and support Mustang hoops!

We also have a big soccer match tonight on campus. Our women’s team has advanced to the semifinals of the Conference USA Soccer Championships and will take on Colorado College tonight at 5 p.m. on Westcott Field. Hopefully everyone can sneak out of work a few minutes early on a Friday and get over to SMU for kickoff. Don’t worry – at the game we’ll be giving updates on our No. 2 -ranked men’s squad as they play against UAB (the only team to beat us in the regular season) at 5 p.m. in the C-USA semifinals up in Tulsa.

And while you’re on campus, just across the parking lot from Westcott, our 20th-ranked men's swim team will host No. 24 BYU in a dual meet at 6 p.m. in Perkins Natatorium. So stop by tonight and check out all the action on the pitch and in the pool. Tonight’s events are a good example of the very affordable, family-oriented, nationally-competitive college athletics entertainment that SMU has to offer right here in the center of Dallas.

Invite some friends and I’ll see you there!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How About Those Mustangs!

What a night! It sure felt great to get a big win on national television. Not only were we on ESPN for seven hours (it was replayed overnight), but we had two plays on ESPN’s “Top 10 Plays Of The Day,” including the No. 1 play – Cedrick Dorsey’s amazing grab on the two-point conversion. Hopefully, ESPN will be back on campus again soon.

Related to the game, I just can’t say enough about the tremendous student support we received last night. I think it is the biggest student turnout we’ve ever had at Ford Stadium. Thanks to the student body for coming out in their festive Halloween costumes – and an extra special thanks to those that stayed for the whole game. I applaud each and every one of you. I also want to thank all our other loyal fans in attendance. The home side of the stadium looked great, too. Now we’ll go to work on the end zones and filling the gaps…

Check out a photo gallery from the game here:

Another thank you to Spike Dykes and the ARA crew as they presented us with their first-ever Team Sportsmanship Award. SMU did the right thing last year in coming to the aid of Tulane during Hurricane Katrina. It is nice to be nationally recognized in such a positive way.

While football seems to get the majority of the attention right now, we have two tremendous soccer teams right here on the Hilltop and both are playing in their conference tournaments this week after winning regular season C-USA titles. Both are No. 1 seeds and both teams swept the league’s Offensive & Defensive Players and Coaches of the Year awards. Ranked second nationally, the men are battling up in Tulsa, but we are hosting the Women’s C-USA Soccer Championships at Westcott Field. Please come out and cheer on the Mustangs. We all know what a great home field advantage can do for a team. Our first match is today at noon. Come on by on your lunch break and check it out.