Star-Bulletin Sports

Saturday, October 6, 2001


UH Football

UH, SMU in
‘other game’

With Oklahoma and Texas also
playing, most of Dallas
ignores today's game

By Dave Reardon

DALLAS >> Hawaii is the other team in its own hotel. Southern Methodist is the other team in its own city.

This is the other game.

When UH and SMU meet today at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the Mustangs' campus, it barely qualifies for sideshow status.

It's hard to compete with Oklahoma and Texas at the Cotton Bowl. Tickets were going for $600 apiece yesterday afternoon for one of the nation's biggest games of the year.

A few miles away, the five-point underdog Warriors (1-2, 0-2 Western Athletic Conference) and Mustangs (0-3, 0-1) will be lucky to play in a half-filled stadium as both look for a springboard out of the conference's lower tier.

"It won't be a good crowd," SMU assistant athletic director Chris Walker said. "We've got about 16,000 tickets out there, but it might rain, too."

The SMU administration wasn't too thrilled about the WAC scheduling a home game the same day as the region's biggest rivalry, featuring the defending national champions and another contender for this year's title. But as Hawaii and San Jose State have learned recently, you have to be a good conference soldier.

Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Davis captured it best.

"It's like layering a party buffet with beef tenderloin, potato crusted salmon and some of those yummy pot stickers, then hoping someone goes for the beanie weenies," he wrote.

Dark red is the prevailing color at the airport Marriott, where the Sooners checked in yesterday.

The college coaches of the year of the past two seasons, UH's June Jones and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, could bump into each other in the lobby.

But Hawaii's miracle season of two years ago -- keyed in part by its 20-0 victory over SMU here -- seems like a very long time ago, while Oklahoma is still riding high.

After winning all their WAC road games in 1999, the Warriors have lost five in a row away from the islands. A defeat at Nevada two weeks ago and again at home to Rice last Saturday, and UH is in a must-win situation if it is to have hope for the rest of the season. The schedule gets tougher as it goes along.

"Every game is a big game," Jones said. "But winning conference games on the road are what make you."

While UH tries to regain magic lost a year ago, SMU is still attempting to return from the dead after 13 years. The program that produced Doak Walker, Kyle Rote, Don Meredith and Eric Dickerson didn't even have a football team in 1987 and 1988 after getting the death penalty from the NCAA for a litany of rules violations.

Since their revival, the Mustangs are 36-96-3 with only one winning season. SMU hasn't been to the postseason since it beat Notre Dame 27-20 in the 1984 Aloha Bowl.

The Mustangs have lost their last five games, and coach Mike Cavan's job is reported to be on the line. Warriors assistant Tyson Helton, who spent some of his childhood in Texas and played quarterback for Houston, remembers the end of the good and beginning of the bad for SMU.

"Texas and Texas A&M have always been the teams in Texas," he said. "But SMU had that nice stretch in the '80s, with some great players. They were definitely something to watch. Then what happened killed them. The death penalty was horrible for them. Even though it's been a while, when you build from scratch it's tough on recruiting.

"But they have great opportunities to turn things around. They have a brand-new stadium. It seats 32,000 but can expand for 50,000. They have new facilities and a ton of money coming in."

Former New York Giants linebacker Gary Reasons, who is part of Fox's broadcast team for today's game, is from the Fort Worth area and has followed SMU football from childhood.

"It died very abruptly, and it takes a while to build back up," he said. "When you take it out of a conference (Southwest) it was in for years and years and those rivalries and alliances die, too, that hurts. Now they're in a different conference that has a lot of teams that people in the Metroplex aren't familiar with. New rivalries take time to build and the old ones aren't there. The only way to become prominent again is to build the program and win."

"All schools have hard-core supporters," Reasons added. "You can't choose after the fact where you went to school. Sure, they've still got some guys. The times I've been to the stadium I've seen it. They're faithful, they've got their regalia."

Today is a true test of loyalty. The Cotton Bowl and possibly college football's game of the year beckons. Even at $600 a ticket.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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