Game Worn - Early 80's


As a private university with religious affiliation, it was always difficult for SMU to compete with the top schools of the Southwest Conference. Texas, Texas A&M, and Arkansas were larger, richer, and more resources. This did not prevent the Mustangs from earning the National Championship in 1935 nor turn out the immortal Heisman winner Doak Walker in 1948. There were enough good players attracted to the beautiful Dallas school that they found themselves in the Cotton Bowl on occasion and as they did against undefeated, Staubach-led Navy in 1962, on the correct end of major upsets. Legendary coach Hayden Fry led that upset win in his first season at SMU and he takes credit for recruiting Jerry Levias and intergrating the Southwest Conference. However, SMU football through the sixties and early seventies was mediocre until Ron Meyer came in and 1976 and the school aggressively marketed the Mustangs. The record remained mediocre until 1980 (8-4) and the payoff came in '81 with a 10-1 performance. Meyer bolted for the Patriots and Bobby Collins took over with an incredible run of 11-0, 10-2, and 10-2 until the NCAA began to investigate what might have been the reason for the turnaround. Demoralized, the Ponys went 6-5 and were placed on probation for recruiting violations. They made the unfortunate decision to continue illegal player payments and were again caught, becoming the only school in NCAA history to be given the "Death Penalty" and SMU had no football in 1987. The school gave up the 1988 season also to reassess and a scaled-down version of SMU football with few wins has been the norm since. But the glory days of the early '80s produced legends: The Pony Express Backfield of Craig James and Eric Dickerson, SWC titles, numerous NFL draft choices, the respect of Texas and Texas A&M. That SMU has had so many down years and coaching changes, it follows that they have had numerous helmet and uniform designs but the helmet of the early-'80's glory days is an immediate reminder of their excellence and their fall from grace.