At Long Last, SMU Kills Its Death Penalty

For his role, Dale Hansen got death threats, extortion ploys and, um, a dead bird.

"It was a black crow delivered right to our office," recalls Hansen, WFAA-Channel 8's sports anchor upon the events surrounding his uncovering the SMU football scandal of 1986. "It had a note pinned through its body: 'You're next.'"

For its part, SMU football received even worse. A two-year death sentence from which it took 23 years - until last Saturday's victory over Tulane - to recover.

"It was a significant historical event and a dark day for SMU and the city of Dallas," Mustangs athletic director Steve Orsini told me a year or so ago. "But there's no residue. It doesn't affect us today."

Not anymore.

A football team that for two decades couldn't beat a group of nerds from the Cox School of Business finished 7-5 and will later today be officially invited to the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl, its first bowl game since 1984.

The resurrection is spurring warm-n-fuzzies on the Hilltop, but also spawning feel-good movies. How 'bout, for example, an independent film (password: Mustangs) being pitched to ESPN documentaries?

June Jones, who was awarded a two-year contract extension last week, has done what Forrest Gregg, Tom Rossley, Mike Cavan and Phil Bennett couldn't do before him: Wake SMU football from the dead.

For years acting as Elvis - tangibly gone but pratically functional - the death penalty is finally buried. The funeral will feel like a party.

While we're on the topic of embarrassments SMU, about that Bush Library ...

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt