Long odds not new for SMU, Jones
BY MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Thursday, November 22, 2012
11/22/12 at 6:05 AM
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Southern Methodist University is well-versed in bowl game droughts.
For 25 years the Mustangs went without a bowl appearance, primarily a result of the NCAA "death penalty" levied against the school for repeated rules violations and its after-effects.
However in 2009, one year after the school brought in June Jones to serve as its head coach, the team started a three-year bowl game appearance streak - a streak that will end if SMU loses to the University of Tulsa on Saturday.
In order to turn the program around, Jones said the first thing he had to do was change the mindset of the players.
"I think they didn't believe they could win. I was able to get that changed. They believed in each other and played for each other and believed they could win," he said. "We do things a lot differently. In 25 years good coaches have been here. But you have to take a little different approach to get that done."
Looking at Jones' career, it's obvious he knows how to get it done.
In 1994 Jones took over an Atlanta Falcons team that had been to the playoffs just once since 1982 and led them to the playoffs in his second year.
In 1999 he took over a University of Hawaii team that had lost 18 games in a row. In his first season the team went 9-4 and earned a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship.
"Every job I've had is similar to the one SMU was in, so I had a lot of experience in how to get that done. In the NFL, I was given the worst team. In college, I was given the worst team. Once you're in that situation, you have an idea of what it takes to turn that around," Jones said.
TU coach Bill Blankenship said Jones is "an incredible coach."
"I think he's a fascinating story. He does things his own way, yet you talk to folks in Hawaii when he was there and the accomplishments that he made. People rave about him," Blankenship said. "I think he's a tremendous gentleman but also a guy who is a highly competitive football coach."
Since turning around the Mustang program, the impact has been felt in student interest and alumni donations.
"Football is a big part of all schools, especially private schools," Jones said. "Regardless if anyone wants to admit it, football will get you more of everything."
Since the team's bowl appearance in 2009, student applications have increased 35 percent and giving has increased 45 percent.
"The success can be felt throughout the school," Jones said.
SMU has to beat Tulsa to become bowl-eligible, but that's not what Jones is using to motivate his players.
"You always like to send your seniors off a winner. We've got a good group of kids, and you always like to have a win their last game so it's fresh in their minds," Jones said. "If you're lucky enough to go to a bowl game that's great, but the most important part is the kids."
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Mike Averill 918-581-8489