SMU Director of Athletics Steve Arsini talked to fans Wednesday morning during an online chat hosted by The Dallas Morning News. A transcript of that discussion follows:
Chris46: Winning is obviously the best way to generate interest in a program. Until that starts to happen, though, how do you plan to get more people out to Ford Stadium and Moody Coliseum?
Steve Orsini: My thought is we ask our supporters and our staff to play like champions now. So from a fan's perspective don't wait til we win to come to the game. You're part of the formula. An example of that is our biggest recruiting event is bringing recruits to our home football games. If our stadium is half-empty and they go to another school is full, most athletes know which is better to play in.
MLHoffman: What are you looking for in your next football coach?
Steve Orsini: Looking for someone that is a proven winner on and off the field. We have three goals for our student-athletes so I'm looking for success athletically, academically and conduct. We're looking for a coach with a proven track record in those three areas, as well as a proven successful recruiter.
Dicky Wynn: A big part of your pitch to basketball Matt Doherty was the promise to build a world-class practice facility. What, if anything, will you offer a potential football coach that may or may not have been available to the previous coach?
Steve Orsini: As I've stated from the moment I was hired, I truly believe SMU has all the pieces of the puzzle for a winning football program already on the table. We are looking for the right person to put the pieces together. We do have state-of-the art facilities, nationally competitive admissions process, wonderful university, beautiful campus in the great sports town of Dallas.
SMUPONY: When do you plan to start having formal interviews for the football vacancy? How many coaches are you planning on bringing in to interview?
Steve Orsini: There's a sense of urgency here to get the next leader for our football program. That was one of the reasons we decided to announce the change of leadership when we do so that we are in the best position to get the best available coach in America to come to SMU.
From e-mail: I'm a huge SMU fan and very excited to see how the men's basketball team fares this season. They had a top 25 recruiting class this past year by some publications and I feel Matt Doherty is going to make this a legit basketball school once again for the first time in a long time. What are your overall thoughts about Doherty and what his chances are of being a long-time coach of the Mustangs? Brent
Steve Orsini: I'm very optimistic that Matt Doherty has made the commitment to SMU that equals SMU's commitment to him and that we're in this for the long haul and that we can achieve all of our goals together.
Stallion's Pappy: There's been talk of changing SMU's athletic model. Is there anything concrete in the works that you can discuss, such as more athletic-friendly majors or academic restrictions loosening up for recruits?
Steve Orsini: Just to clear up some misconceptions, SMU does have a nationally competitive admissions process and an attractive academic cirriculum that a prospective student-athlete can be successful in.
SMU Letterman: Nothing is more frustrating than being a season-ticket holder and being told that I cannot get back into the game if I leave for whatever reason ... especially when the stadium is almost empty. I heard the "it's about safety" answer but I'm not buying it. Any thoughts on taking care of the season-ticket holders?
Steve Orsini: We've set a Top 25-standard across the board at SMU and that includes our in-out policy. We have surveyed Top 25 programs and the majority of those surveyed have a policy like ours.
GoGators: For someone who grew up in Florida when UCF was a Division II school with no football program, I'm amazed at what's transpired in Orlando. Your heart is obviously at SMU now, but how good does it make you feel to have been a part of UCF's rise?
Steve Orsini: I have great professional pride in the successes UCF is experiencing today in its athletics program. I wish to apply those same practices to rebuilding SMU athletics to its glory days.
PBM: How much weight do you place in negative "baggage" that a head coach candidate may bring? Some of the names that have been rumored have some issues in their past.
Steve Orsini: Certainly my track record indicates that I'll consider a candidate with some history, but I also know there's no perfect candidate out there. Knowing that, I drill down to investigate myself those allegations and consider if that candidate still fits into what we're trying to do at the institution.
cary: Itís been 20 years since the "bad" boosters were banned from SMU and most of the players from that era have also kept their distance (Craig James for example). Might it be time for us to open up our arms to all those we have shunned for all these years? Maybe we should let those who were part of the problem now be part of the solution.
Steve Orsini: We welcome back all of our alumni and supporters to SMU. I have reached out, for example, to Craig James, during this very important process to hire a new coach for SMU football.
regis: Now that the Crum Center is near completion, what are the plans to upgrade the other athletic facilites like Moody, Westcott and the Natatorium?
Steve Orsini: The next project to be completed is the state -of-the-art outdoor tennis stadium just south of the Crum Center. We hope to have that completed in time for the spring 2008 tennis season. We have entered into an agreement with the Dallas Athletic Club to be the home for our golf programs. The DAC/SMU partnership includes a state-of-the-art clubhouse, short-game practice facility and indoor driving range for our programs and the membership of the DAC. After the Crum Center is completed we will immediately focus on plans to renovate Moody Coliseum to update this grand, 50-year-old facility. We continue to work on plans to improve all of our athletic facilities.
Joe: What do you see as the biggest hurdles to successful recruiting?
Steve Orsini: The biggest hurdle is the misperceptions that are out there about SMU in both potential athletic success and academic success. With the right coaches in place we feel we can overcome those hurdles. For example, last season Coach Doherty was able to attract a Top 25 recruiting class to SMU.
SMUPONY: How important is it to get a new football coach in right away? Can that person save this year's recruiting class?
Steve Orsini: When you make a change there's an inherent impact on the recruiting process for that season, however we are taking as many steps as possible to minimize the impact on the football program's recruiting process. We're in the process of contacting all of our prospective student-athletes in an attempt to inform them of our commitment to rebuilding SMU football into a Top 25 program.
coach: If the new football coach is not a Texas guy, how much emphasis do you place on hiring a staff that is familiar with recruiting Texas?
Steve Orsini: It's important to me not only that we hire a successful head coach but that the head coach will bring to SMU a successful of assistant coaches who can help in both the recruiting and teaching processes.
ranger800: I was very disappointed when men's track and field, probably the most successful program over the years at SMU, was cancelled in 2004. Any plans to bring the program back?
Steve Orsini: I'll address this question, but we've also had a couple baseball-related questions come through. As an athletic director and a department and a university we are commited to providing as many opportunities as possible to all student atheltes. That said, we want to provide those opportunities in an equitable manner and with fiscal responsibility.
ponyfan: I think a dynamic personality would be a "must have" quality for the next football coach. Someone who can energize the entire community, not just alumni and current boosters. Do you agree?
Steve Orsini: I agree, and I think coach Doherty is an example of us taking that path toward hiring coaches at SMU.
Palladium Pony: What are your thoughts regarding the BCS structure of college football? Are you in favor of a playoff system?
Steve Orsini: I am very much in favor of a playoff system, similar to the structure of every other NCAA sport.
Steve Orsini: I appreciate everyone asking questions. We hope to see you all at Ford Stadium on Saturday for our homecoming game against Rice.
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