The Mustangs’ historic Sheraton Hawaii Bowl victory marked the beginning of a new era in SMU football. It also gained national attention for SMU, raising the University’s profile and supporting Second Century Campaign efforts around the country.
Viewers throughout the United States watched the Mustangs, led by Coach June Jones, defeat the University of Nevada Wolf Pack by a score of 45–10 on ESPN Christmas Eve.
The team’s success is a testament to the efforts of players and coaches and the support of students and alumni. In addition, a group known as Circle of Champions, working under the direction of President R. Gerald Turner and Athletics Director Steve Orsini, provided the funding necessary to attract a nationally known coach and committed to continue supporting the football program for five years.
“The Circle of Champions is a very special group of people,” said Paul B. Loyd, Jr. ’68, a founding member of the group. “But the Circle of Champions model could be replicated for almost any other area of the University. It just requires a core group of people who want to get together and make something good happen.”
These and other donors also contributed more than $500,000 in a three-day period following SMU’s acceptance of the invitation to compete in the Hawaii Bowl. The gifts allowed the Mustang Band, cheerleaders and Peruna and his handlers to travel to Hawaii to support the team.
In addition to highlighting SMU’s spirit and commitment to athletic excellence, the Hawaii Bowl appearance sparked press coverage on television and in newspapers throughout the United States. Especially favorable stories in The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education discussed SMU’s academic quality and progress in addition to the Mustangs’ football success.
Ultimately, this kind of coverage can play an important role in helping the University meet its campaign goals.
“It raises awareness,” says Matthew E. Gormly, III, co-chair of the Campaign Steering Committee for New York City. “It causes kids who may not have considered SMU before to take a serious look at the University, and they discover that, in addition to having a great football program, it also has great academics.
“If they are accepted, then their parents get involved. And it becomes a ‘virtuous circle’ that benefits the University.”
To learn about supporting SMU Athletics, please contact Tim Leonard at 214-768-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.