SMU PREPARES FOR THE NEXT CHAPTER OF ATHLETIC ACHIEVEMENT BY JOINING THE ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE.
The energy was palpable as students, alumni, athletes, donors, staff and faculty gathered in the Armstrong Fieldhouse to celebrate. A cloud of red and blue confetti filled the air.
The Mustang Band played Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now while the pom squad and cheerleaders danced along. The rumors had proven true: SMU was joining the Atlantic Coast Conference by invitation.
“We’re finally back where we belong,” said SMU Board Chair David B. Miller ’72, ’73 to a cheering crowd on September 1. “I firmly believe that the conference just got stronger – a lot stronger – with the addition of the SMU Mustangs.”
But the celebration wasn’t just confined to those who found themselves in Armstrong Fieldhouse that Friday afternoon. The buzz online generated a reach of 13 billion, including 526 million impressions.
In just three days, SMU experienced a 103% increase in visitors to the undergraduate admissions homepage – people were talking.
“As a child who was born into being an SMU fan in 1988, this is lifechanging,” Andrew Conwell ’11, ’17 shared via Instagram. Sara McKenna ’03, another proud Mustang, commented on LinkedIn: “It’s about time!!”
SMU will officially join the conference on July 1, 2024, while the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University will follow on August 2. The ACC boasts 15 members, including Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Founded in 1953, the conference is in its 71st year of competition and enjoys a reputation as one of the strongest and most competitive intercollegiate conferences in the country. ACC schools have won 173 NCAA team championships, 196 NCAA men’s individual titles and 181 NCAA women’s individual titles. And now, SMU is taking its place within this esteemed conference.
“From early on in my tenure here on the Hilltop, we had a vision to reestablish SMU Athletics as a nationally recognized and relevant program, one to complement our outstanding academic reputation,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
“In addition to its influence on our Athletics programs, being formally associated with the outstanding academic institutions in the ACC will also be beneficial to the academic community of SMU.”
Over the past decade, all of SMU’s 17 athletic programs have reached postseason, and 15 of those programs have won conference championships.
Since 2013, SMU has invested over $250 million to develop and enhance championship-caliber facilities.
“We have a great story to tell institutionally and athletically,”
SMU Director of Athletics Rick Hart told the crowd at the announcement celebration.
“If you want to accomplish big things, you ride with the Mustangs. I’m blessed every day to ride with the Mustangs.”
And it didn’t take long to accomplish some of those big things.
In just seven days, a group of 30 donors, including trustees and key supporters, raised an unprecedented $100 million to support the transition to the ACC. This first effort launched a drive for all Mustangs to financially support SMU’s move to the ACC.
“When we announced on September 1 that SMU would be joining the ACC, I was highly confident that we would be able to cover the cost of the transition into what is one of the top three collegiate athletic conferences in the country,” said Miller. “To be able to raise this level of support in such a short period of time is astounding.”
Donations aren’t the only way fans are showing their excitement. Just two weeks after the announcement, men’s basketball season ticket sales jumped by 30%, and hundreds of new football season tickets were sold.
“The news has energized not just our fan base, but the Dallas community,” said Hart.