SMU makes public its desire to join Big 12 or another BCS conference

SMU officials say the school’s future lies in joining a BCS conference.

Staff Writer

SMU officials said the school’s future lies in joining a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) conference, heightening a public stance on their desire to rejoin big-time college athletics during a meeting Wednesday with The Dallas Morning News editorial board.

“We are pushing for it,” SMU president R. Gerald Turner said. “We want the city to know we’re pushing for it. We need as much help as possible, even from non-SMU alums. We believe it’s good for Dallas.”

While the benefits of joining a BCS conference would be clear — including a boost in prestige and TV money — SMU would need to be convincing to appeal to a BCS conference.

Turner and SMU athletic director Steve Orsini laid out their case to join any BCS league — though they said the Big 12  would make the most sense — and have appealed to Big 12 leadership. TCU, however, got its chance from the Big East, which it’s joining next year. The Big 12 has been in turmoil for weeks as Texas A&M vies for a spot in the SEC, potentially restarting a major shift in college athletics.

School officials contend SMU should appeal to a BCS conference because:

The university has made leaps in academic rankings and research status. School officials believe the athletic program will benefit from this progress.

SMU has tradition, competing in the Southwest Conference before it disbanded in the 1990s and SMU joined Conference USA.

Coach June Jones is transforming the football program to respectability. SMU has played in back-to-back bowls after ending a drought that extended to 1984.

SMU already has drawings that could be used to expand on-campus Ford Stadium from 32,000 capacity to 40,000.

Dallas deserves a school in an automatic qualifying conference and a BCS team would be an economic engine. SMU has 40,000 alums in the area and could strengthen the Big 12’s already strong regional ties.

SMU’s presence could solidify the Dallas-Fort Worth  area TV market, which could be sliced up by the SEC and Big East. Orsini argued the Big 12, currently at 10 teams and at risk of shrinking, needs to expand to keep up or risk being raided.

Previously reported SMU drawbacks as an expansion option include the Big 12’s already strong presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with large alumni bases here. As a smaller, private school, SMU may not provide the punch that impresses conference television partners. Even if the stadium is expanded to 40,000, it would be small by Big 12 standards, and SMU drew an average of 23,000 fans last season.

Other schools floated for Big 12 expansion have included Houston, BYU and Notre Dame.

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