February 23, 2011

As SMU celebrates the centennial of its founding in 1911 and opening in 1915, the University also is marking 100 years of achievements in athletics through a recently released book, In Honor of the Mustangs.

The first comprehensive history of SMU athletics showcases exploits on the gridiron, from the football team’s infamous 146-3 defeat to the Rice Owls in 1916 to its 45-10 victory over Nevada in the 2009 Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl. Also highlighted are achievements in swimming, basketball, volleyball, track and field, cross country, tennis, baseball and equestrian competition.

  • The 400-page book is filled with little-known facts, including:
  • SMU fielded a soccer team in 1916.
  • A nine-hole golf course was located on campus in the early days.
  • Women competed in tennis and basketball at the time of SMU’s founding.
  • Red Barr, men’s dormitory director and men’s swimming coach, had to enroll in a Red Cross life-saving program to learn the intricacies of the sport.

The book also looks at SMU’s role in integrating Southwest Conference football. When Jerry LeVias ’69 entered SMU in 1965, he became the first African-American to receive an athletic scholarship in the SWC. He made both athletic and academic All-America football teams and led the Mustangs to their first conference title in 18 years. After earning his B.S. degree from SMU, LeVias played professional football for the Houston Oilers and San Diego Chargers. He received a Distinguished Alumni Award from SMU in 2006.

To recognize his achievements, a Black History Month Town Hall Forum will feature a screening of the award-winning documentary Jerry LeVias: Marked Man at 7 p.m. Feb. 28, followed by a discussion with LeVias and past and present SMU coaches and players, at the Mack Ballroom in the Umphrey Lee Center on campus.

In Honor of the Mustangs, published jointly by the SMU Lettermen’s Association and SMU’s DeGolyer Library, also looks at athletics in the context of the history of SMU and American higher education in general. The book was written by SMU professor emeritus of communications and SMU centennial historian Darwin Payne ’68. Photo editor Gerry York ’58, curator of SMU’s Heritage Hall selected the 650 photographs to illustrate the sports history.

Payne, who received an M.A. in history from SMU and a Ph.D. in American civilization from the University of Texas at Austin in 1973, taught journalism at SMU for 30 years before retiring. He has written extensively about Dallas history and is the author of numerous books, including his most recent, Quest for Justice, a biography of L.A. Bedford Jr. (SMU Press, 2009).

Payne says that although he had known about SMU athletics and been a sports fan all his life, “I was surprised at the national prominence SMU football teams achieved in the 1920s because of coach Ray Morrison. The teams’ reliance on the forward pass became a national sensation, popularizing it as an offensive weapon, and SMU was perhaps the first Southwest Conference team to schedule significant intersectional games. Although football suffered after the ‘death penalty,’ other SMU sports teams generally thrived, and together they provided the University with one of the best all-round sports programs in the nation for private universities. There were many prominent athletes through the years who largely have been forgotten, and I hope this book will help bring them the attention they deserve.”

The editorial advisory group includes Roman Kupchynsky II ’80, president of the Lettermen’s Association; Chuck Hixson ’70, former SMU quarterback and president-elect of the association; Paul Rogers, professor of law and faculty athletics representative for SMU since 1987; Joan Gosnell, University archivist; and Russell L. Martin III ’78, director of DeGolyer Library.

To obtain a copy of In Honor of the Mustangs visit smu.edu/cul/degolyer for an order form. Cost is $55 per book (includes tax and shipping). For more information, call Pamalla Anderson at 214-768-0829. Or call the SMU Lettermen’s office at 214-768-4000 to order by phone, or email Lettermen@smu.edu. Please include your phone number so that we may call you for credit card information. (Please do not email credit card information.)
Copies also are sold at Culwell & Son, across Hillcrest from campus, 214-522-7000.