UNIVERSITY PARK -- SMU celebrated its first bowl invitation in 25 years in style on Monday.
Despite the gray, cold weather outside, it was a festive, Hawaiian-themed event inside the student center on campus. President Gerald Turner, athletic director Steve Orsini and coach June Jones, wearing leis, walked onto the stage to the fight song. Orsini officially accepted an invitation to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24, sending a few hundred folks, including fans, boosters, administrators, players, cheerleaders and band members into wild applause.
"We've proven there's life after death," Orsini said.
Jones said he was most excited about taking his team to Pearl Harbor before the game. It was something he had planned with special teams coach and longtime friend Frank Gansz, who passed away before the season started at the age of 70 after complications from knee-replacement surgery.
"That will be special when we load up and go to Pearl Harbor," Jones said.
Jones added the bowl game gives SMU some respect. It should also help with recruiting, something Jones and his coaches are focused on even as they prepare for the bowl game. Jones said it was easy for coaches to use the fact that SMU wasn't winning or playing in bowl games against them.
"They'd say, 'Why do you want to go there? They won't win. They haven't been to a bowl,'" Jones said. "They can't say that now."
Jones said the program can focus on more long-term goals.
"We'll start talking about winning championships now," Jones said. "We're in the dance now. The next step is to take it to the next level. I think we're probably two seasons away from really challenging to get to build it to where TCU has gotten it, Boise has gotten it. But we can get there. This is a great campus, great place to play football."
SMU will start practice on Dec. 7, a date that Jones pointed out was fitting since they'll visit Pearl Harbor later in the month.