DALLAS -- SMU athletic director Steve Orsini put out a plea for Pony backers to support the football program as it heads into a fourth season under coach June Jones and seeks a third consecutive bowl game.
Orsini said Pony fever hasn't exactly caught fire. He described ticket sales for the 2011 season as "flat."
"It's time to rally the community," Orsini said. "The SMU community, the student body and the Dallas community because it is, we're there, we're knocking on the door, something they've wanted for 25 years, since the Death Penalty, so it's time we all rally."
SMU ranked 30th in the NCAA last season in largest average attendance increase, jumping from an average home attendance of 21,348 in 2009 to 23,515 in 2010. By comparison, TCU, which finished last season ranked No. 2 in the nation, was 16th in largest attendance increase, from 38,187 to 42,466. And, SMU was behind seven other Texas schools in the category.
The Mustangs open the season at No. 9 Texas A&M on Sept. 4 and play at No. 15 TCU on Oct. 1, so there a chances for SMU to drum up excitement outside of the more ho-hum Conference USA schedule. SMU opens the home schedule on Sept. 10 against UTEP. The rest of the home slate includes: Northwestern State, Central Florida, Tulane, Navy and Rice.
Orsini knows -- just as has been the case to the west at TCU -- continued success on the field -- translating to national rankings and higher profile bowl games -- is the best way to drive ticket sales.
"It's very important for our community, and all the things that are happening in college athletics today, the timing is just right," Orsini said, referencing renewed speculation of major conference realignment. "It's time for SMU to get back into the national landscape, to be relevant again. I believe we're accomplishing that and yet we still have a long way to go.