For SMU coach Chad Morris, home is where the start is

Feature story on new SMU Head Football Coach Chad Morris.

By Paul Myerberg

DALLAS — Two or three times each season while coaching at Clemson, Chad Morris would send personalized emails to his friends in Texas.

He'd send emails to Hank Carter, the head football coach and athletics director at Lake Travis High School, to Joey McGuire at Cedar Hill, to Joseph Gillespie at Stephenville — in all, to dozens and dozens of the state's many high school coaches.

We're doing great, Morris would write. We beat those guys last week; we've got these guys next. Here's how we're doing on offense. Let me know how you're doing.

The message itself was never as important as its deeper meaning: Morris, himself a former coach at five different in-state high schools from 1994-2009, wanted to maintain the ties that bind together one of the most unique fraternities in the entire profession — that of the Texas high school coach, a group that can be as kind to its members as it can be unforgiving to those outside the circle.

"As a high school coach, this is one of the most unique fraternities — because it is a fraternity — and you're either one of them in this state or you're not," Morris told USA TODAY Sports.

"If you're not one of them, you better try to be one of them. If you don't, you won't survive. You just won't. I've lived it. I've seen it. I know it. If you don't embrace them or you embrace them the wrong way, they'll kill you. Career-wise, they won't help you."

After a long courtship, Morris was officially named SMU's next coach on Dec. 1. By Dec. 4, he had accumulated 980 unread emails and 680 unanswered text messages, most — if not nearly all — from his friends and former colleagues within the state's borders.

Morris made his name with an up-tempo offense, one developed on the state's high school level and finely tuned during successful stints as the offensive coordinator at Tulsa and Clemson. The offense put Morris' name on the map, but his connections to coaches across Texas got him to SMU. Those same connections, Morris hopes, will lift SMU to new heights.

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