In 1924 SMU was barely nine years old when a 21-year-old man with a horn walked up the steps of Dallas Hall to apply for the position of director of the Mustang Band. His name was V. Cyrus Barcus, and he got the job. During the next eight years, Cy Barcus introduced many of our favorite traditions that endure today.
- It was Cy Barcus who saw a black pony running through a field and decided it would make a good mascot. He persuaded Coach Ray Morrison to bring what would become Peruna I to the next pep meeting.
- It was Cy Barcus who went to a revival in South Dallas with his brother and heard the gospel song “We’ll Go Out to Meet Our Savior When He Comes,” first sung very slowly and then faster and faster! He decided to change the words and make it the fight song we know today.
- It was Cy Barcus who went to the roof of the Baker Hotel to study the 2/4 jazz rhythm of the dance band, and then taught the band how to play jazz.
- It was Cy Barcus who used the flutter-tongue introduction on his cornet to get the band’s attention – still used today!
- It was Cy Barcus who decided that the band uniforms with the red capes just wouldn’t do and ordered new uniforms with blazers and vests.
And it was Cy Barcus who started Varsity Players, which we now call Pigskin Revue, one of our prized traditions.
In November 2012 there was a presentation in Houston for SMU alumni about the new Mustang Band Hall now under construction to replace the “under the Natatorium” location, in use since 1956. That evening, after hearing Bette Barcus Carpenter, Cy’s daughter, narrate stories of the Cy Barcus traditions, a group of us decided that the new band hall must be named in honor of V. Cyrus Barcus. We were told that naming rights required raising $1.5 million, so we started a grassroots effort to do just that.
After Christmas, two oral history tapes made by Cy Barcus were found in a box of Barcus-family memorabilia. The tapes were played at an event on March 12 in Fondren Library with more than 50 people in attendance. Peruna IX was outside to greet the guests. When “Varsity” played, everyone in the room rose and sang. It was a moving event. Four living Cy Barcuses were on hand that day!
It was then announced that SMU plans to raise the $1.5 million to name the band hall in honor of V. Cyrus Barcus. We hope everyone will jump on our bandwagon to help make this happen. If we fall short of our goal, there will be another appropriate naming commensurate with the funds raised to honor the legacy and legend of Cy Barcus.
Please help us honor this extraordinary man who began the heart and soul of SMU – our spirit and our most treasured traditions. They bear the footprints of Cy Barcus.
Let’s Pony Up!
Belle Drye Schafer Petkas ’68
Founding Chair of the SMU Tribute to Cy Barcus