Dallas fans are catching SMU fever

SMU's 8-5 season a year ago has given its fanbase a sense of optimism it hasn't had in more than three decades.

The Mustangs completed their first winning season since 1997 and their first eight-win season since winning 10 games in 1984. Last year also was the Mustangs' first bowl berth since ’84, which has much of the fanbase wondering how far this team can go under third-year head coach June Jones?

So great is the enthusiasm for this team that for the first time since the stadium was built in 2000 -- and probably the first time since the Pony Express took the field in the early 80s -- SMU has sold out all of its premium seating for the 2010 season.

That’s right. All 29 suites and 731 club seats in Gerald J. Ford Stadium are gone for the entire year.

"With the success of our football team in 2009, we had high hopes there would be an increase in demand for 2010," Tim Leonard, SMU's senior associate athletic director for external affairs said. "That said, the increase has been significant. Football fans around the Metroplex have noticed our success and recognize the excitement and value SMU football provides for their entertainment dollar."

The ballyhoo surrounding SMU is well-deserved. The Mustangs return 18 players with starting experience, including quarterback Kyle Padron, who came on in the middle of the year and set a school passing record in a decisive bowl win over Nevada. The team will be young again this year, but Jones has built a lot of depth with young players in his first two seasons. SMU is considered the primary challenger to Houston in the race for Conference USA’s West Division.

“We’re still probably a recruiting class or half a recruiting class from really just not holding on to your rear ends with injuries,” Jones told ESPN.com on signing day. “We’ve got a lot of good players. In fact, I think every one of the players we have in this class will have a chance to get on the field and help us next year. So that’s pretty good.”

With its latest surge in ticket sales, SMU is actually challenging TCU for attention in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. This also might be the first time both teams challenge for their respective conference titles in the same season.