Chad Morris didn’t need the SMU job.
As offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Clemson, Morris had what many would consider a dream job. Morris had secured a long-term, 6-year/$1.3 million a year contract making him one of the highest paid assistant coaches in the NCAA.
During his time at Clemson, Morris coached the Tigers to multiple school and ACC records, and also coached the likes of Tahj Boyd, Sammy Watkins, and DeAndre Hopkins, all of whom would become All-Americans. His family loved living in Tigertown, and Morris and Dabo Swinney went together like peanut butter and jelly.
In order to draw Morris away from Clemson, SMU President R. Gerald Turner and athletic boosters needed to write Morris a blank check. Morris will candidly say to anyone that he needed to be offered the perfect oppurtunity to even consider leaving the upstate of South Carolina. A “full commitment” was paramount to SMU landing Chad Morris as the next head coach of Mustang football.
Here we are now, almost nine months later, and the new era of #PonyUpTempo is in full swing with Chad Morris at the helm. Morris clearly understands that to compete like a powerhouse you have to look like a powerhouse, train like a powerhouse, and recruit like a powerhouse.
In terms of recruiting, Morris and his staff have lived up to the hype. A former Texas high school coach, and someone who is very familiar with Texas high school football, one of Morris’ most attractive qualities is his ability to recruit. The staff Morris has assembled over the past few months have worked miracles. Morris and company gave the incoming Class of 2015 a serious boost and have already assembled an astounding class of 23 commitments for the following year, selling them all on a vision of what is to come.
That being said, Morris won’t be able to sell a dream forever. Soon, SMU’s football program will need to grow as much as the aspirations of the staff.
Gerald J. Ford Stadium was constructed in 2000, and other than an expansion and renovation of existing luxury suites, the stadium has never been expanded.
Since the days when SMU played their home games in the Cotton Bowl, the school has never had a dedicated training facility.
All of this is subject to change, but these (reported) changes will be happening very soon.
Multiple sources within SMU Athletics and the football program have confirmed that new football facilities are coming. The new facilities will include one, possibly two, indoor 100-yard practice fields that will run east to west across Westcott field.
Another possibility is that below the indoor field will sit a football only weight room, with additional locker rooms and other training facilities. That would leave the current weight room and training rooms to be utilized by the other programs that reside within the Loyd-All Sports Center.
In addition to the “to-be-constructed” training center, mutliple rumors about a stadium expansion have also been circulating.
Sources with the team have suggested that SMU plans to continue the expansion of football offices towards the northeast side of the stadium, near where the Doak Walker statue currently resides. These new offices could be connected to the new training facility via a pedestrian bridge over the existing plaza between Gates 4 and 5.
However, SMU isn’t stopping with just football. If you’re going to update one thing, why not update everything?
Other sources have confirmed that a replacement natatorium for the swimming and diving teams will be constructed on the site of the old throwing fields behind Expressway Tower. The groundbreaking for the new natatorium is tentatively scheduled for early 2016. No decisions regarding whether Barr Pool on Binkley Avenue will be closed have been made.
New throwing fields for the track & field team are currently being constructed south of Turpin Tennis Complex, and the new football training center is rumored to be incorporating an indoor track much like the one which currently surrounds Westcott Field.
Sources from the soccer team have suggested a replacement soccer field is to be constructed on the current site of the Pettis Practice Fields, where the football team currently practices just west of Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
As you can see, lots of changes appear to be on the way. But, do we really need new training facilities?
Well, with the exception of SMU basketball, the athletic brand at SMU hasn’t added any brand new, shiny toys in a very long time. In order to be competitive in any sport, you need good players. Top level recruits want to attend schools which are commited to the growth of their program, and the new facilities that are allegedly in the works are the first steps in putting SMU back on any recruit’s radar. These new facilities are the next logical step for the university’s growth, and in many respects are long overdue.
The timetable for these projects is still up in the air. Some projects will break ground this calendar year, while others will be absorbed into the university’s long term master plan. With the amount of construction already taking place on campus, very little information about project start dates has been revealed as most are still TBD.
Regardless of whether Chad Morris is able to transform SMU football into a winning program, Morris’ demands for commitment appear to be reverberating through all of SMU’s athletic programs. These new facilities are a great sign that SMU’s return to relevancy may not be so far away after all.
*This article was a collaborative effort by The Stable staff, much of the heavy lifting was done by Jesse Carr and Reece Graham, and the article was illustrated with maps and pretty colors by Joey Hayden*