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Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but feel

Postby AfricanMustang » Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:41 pm

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Whenever the accomplishments of this 2019 SMU football team are referenced, it's always in the context of the early 1980s. The last time any of this success happened -- a 6-0 start, a Top 25 ranking -- was during that time period.

In that sense, this current team and that former era are inextricably linked. But in another sense, several of the top players from that time period feel very distanced from their school and its football program.

"A lot of players feel like they're not wanted," said SMU and NFL Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson. "Like they don't want them there. Like it was our fault that SMU got the death penalty."

Dickerson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft, and his former SMU teammates Craig James and Harvey Armstrong spoke to The Dallas Morning News this week about their current relationship with their alma mater.

All three say they still love their school. All three watch games weekly. All three go to games whenever possible. And all three take tremendous joy in their program's start this fall. But that joy comes with a frustration that they feel the school isn't as proud of them as they are of it.

"I played my heart out and was an All-American at SMU for four years. So I sweat and bled SMU and the red and blue," said Armstrong, who played eight years in the NFL. "I feel like the President and some of the people in the front office, they don't have the same love for us, because, I guess, they feel like we brought embarrassment to the school.

"They really try to disassociate themselves from us. They try to distance themselves from us."

Armstrong is adamant that he still cares deeply about SMU football. He even plans to take a group of ex-teammates on a trip to the Mustangs' bowl game for his 60th birthday, wherever it might be.

Armstrong also attempted to go to the SMU-USF game in Tampa, Fla., on Sept. 28. He reached out ahead of time to director of former player relations, Ramon Flanigan, for four field passes to the game.

Flanigan reached out to people in the administration, Armstrong said, but eventually responded to Armstrong to say he could only get one ticket. Armstrong appealed to director of major gifts, Bob Sharp, who looked into the matter but eventually told Armstrong there would be only one available to him, according to Armstrong.

Armstrong, who is in SMU's Hall of Fame, said "my feelings were hurt" by the situation, and he didn't accept the ticket. He stayed in his Tampa hotel and watched it on TV.

"I said man, that's [expletive]," Dickerson said, recounting a conversation with a former teammate about having to buy tickets. "It's a real slap in the face. ... To me it's classless. You don't ask a former player to come back and pay to go to a football game."

SMU declined to address that ticket situation specifically, but did release a statement from athletic director Rick Hart.

"We celebrate achievements of all our former student-athletes across every sport and every era," Hart's statement read. "We do our best to ensure they always feel welcome when they return to the Hilltop."

SMU does offer all Letterman's Association members two free season tickets to home games. SMU also honored Dickerson and James with the Doak Walker Legends Award a decade ago. The 1983 SMU football team was honored in 2013 and the 1982 team was honored in 2007.

"They have been very, very kind and gracious in trying to welcome us back," James said. "But there's just a feeling, and I don't know, I haven't had anyone ever say something that was negative. It's a feeling that we all have as former players in that great era. We just have it, it's the way it is.

"... It's hard not to be self-conscious. I'm aware of it when I'm on campus, when I'm around the administration. It's almost like they say the right things, but I just don't feel the right things."

SMU gave out Dickerson bobbleheads Saturday against Tulsa, as well as during a game last season. He has also been invited back to SMU's homecoming game this year. Dickerson said he will attend, along with other former teammates.

The morning after SMU beat Tulsa, Dickerson tweeted that he woke up feeling like he'd just played in the game.

"I went to sleep that night, and I woke up, and that was the first thing on my mind," Dickerson said. "I was like, 'Man, we won.' It was just, I was excited about it."

The issue they have isn't with the team or the coaching staff. James said he's had dinner with Sonny Dykes, who has been a friendly face with alumni.

"There's no reason that they shouldn't be considered a team that could play in a Cotton Bowl," James said. "It would be great for the City of Dallas, great for the Cotton Bowl and great for our school."
Armstrong said "it's been a joy" to watch this SMU team. There have been group texts between old teammates excitedly talking about all the winning.

"I've always followed SMU football," Armstrong said. "It's just now I follow with a pride."

These three were the conductors of the Pony Express -- a title that brings mixed feelings to SMU, even to this day. The Mustangs were 10-1 in 1981, 11-0-1 during the 1982 season and 10-2 the year after.
Now, as one of just three schools that are already bowl eligible this season, SMU looks like it has recovered from the death penalty.

Armstrong speculated that if it were lesser members of those early 1980s teams, they might not have even gotten a call back about tickets, had they been the ones to request them for that game against USF.

"They haven't given us the love that I've seen from Texas, and Texas A&M when I speak to their former players," Armstrong said. "They can come on the field, go in the locker room as they please, just do different things. We don't have that green light."

He wishes he could be a part of the process, be invited back more and be welcome to share stories from his time at SMU as a way to help bring in better talent. He'll watch the games no matter what -- it's easy for him to separate those feelings. But he wants to do more than watch.

Dickerson has the same perspective and believes that engaging this alumni base would help make it grow even more.

"I just wish they would use the guys that are in Dallas that really want to be a part of the program, that live right there close," Dickerson said. "... I just feel like they need to do more."

https://www.dallasnews.com/sports/smu-m ... nship-smu/
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby Mustangsabu » Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:48 pm

Rick Hart's statement says all you need to know. Totally out of his depth. He got us banned from post-season basketball and I bet he won't be treated like this.
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby dr rc » Wed Oct 09, 2019 5:07 pm

Dickerson is one again being a massive crybaby throwing himself up on a cross. :roll: Nothing will ever be enough for him.

Armstrong also attempted to go to the SMU-USF game in Tampa, Fla., on Sept. 28. He reached out ahead of time to director of former player relations, Ramon Flanigan, for four field passes to the game.

Flanigan reached out to people in the administration, Armstrong said, but eventually responded to Armstrong to say he could only get one ticket. Armstrong appealed to director of major gifts, Bob Sharp, who looked into the matter but eventually told Armstrong there would be only one available to him, according to Armstrong.

Armstrong, who is in SMU's Hall of Fame, said "my feelings were hurt" by the situation, and he didn't accept the ticket. He stayed in his Tampa hotel and watched it on TV.

"I said man, that's [expletive]," Dickerson said, recounting a conversation with a former teammate about having to buy tickets. "It's a real slap in the face. ... To me it's classless. You don't ask a former player to come back and pay to go to a football game."


Cry me a river. SMU didn't ask Armstrong to come to the USF game. He called up SMU himself and asked for 4 field passes to an away game. He was offered a single ticket and decided [deleted] on SMU I'd rather sit in a hotel. Let's think about this for a second. ED turns something that didn't happen to him into SMU is asking players to come to games and pay for their tickets. Is that what happened? Nope. The one guy who was actually player was offered a ticket. SMU just wasn't going to gift his friends/family with (what are guaranteed to be limited) field tickets to an away game. Boo friggin hoo.

Then Dickerson says schools like A&M and Texas give out field passes for former players. Yes! They do this at times. But are they giving them out to people who aren't former players, coaches, or people important to the university? No! Not really! You won't see Johnny Manziel's dad or Ricky Williams mom on the sideline of a game. Why should SMU be any different?

The school already made bobbleheads of ED. Morris openly courted Pony Express players to come to games. What more does this dude and a few others need? Do they want a damn parade? Do they think they deserve statues outside the stadium?
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby 78pony » Wed Oct 09, 2019 6:47 pm

I’d be glad to give them a parade. This is a bad look and we should welcome them back at all times. For all they left on the field I have no problem with comping some tickets and saying they are welcome in our locker room any time they want. The positive PR to be gained by close and friendly relationship between SMU and our former letterman is tangible, as evidenced by my emails from 3 non-SMU friends before 6:00 PM going WTF!
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby SoCal_Pony » Wed Oct 09, 2019 6:56 pm

“Armstrong also attempted to go to the SMU-USF game in Tampa, Fla., on Sept. 28. He reached out ahead of time to director of former player relations, Ramon Flanigan, for four field passes to the game.

Flanigan reached out to people in the administration, Armstrong said, but eventually responded to Armstrong to say he could only get one ticket. Armstrong appealed to director of major gifts, Bob Sharp, who looked into the matter but eventually told Armstrong there would be only one available to him, according to Armstrong”


Wonder how many requests there were for field passes to that game? My bet is not many.

Harvey Armstrong was an All-American for SMU. He is also in the SMU HOF (deservedly so).

I would have given him the passes.
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby ojaipony » Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:06 pm

We should have a "National Championship" celebration night. Bring them all back, free of charge of course, roll out the red carpet, have a huge halftime celebration ceremony maybe even give them Dallas jerseys and rings or something. If I was running it, they'd be all over the place. So the players and recruits know the greatness in SMU and how it can be great again. The death penalty was about idiots in the administration, etc, not the players who were kids at the time.

Come on, we fans/alums should really call out the administration on this. We should maybe start a campaign to do such a thing.
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby ojaipony » Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:08 pm

dr rc wrote: Do they want a damn parade? Do they think they deserve statues outside the stadium?


Yes.
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby East Coast Mustang » Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:57 pm

Dickerson seems like a guy who needs his [deleted] kissed 24/7/365
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby ponyboy » Wed Oct 09, 2019 8:09 pm

Wow, tough responses. I’m shocked by the vitriol here. Former players deserve better. If Dickerson, James, and Armstrong say there’s a problem, you listen. And you fix it. End of story.
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby smupony94 » Wed Oct 09, 2019 8:13 pm

ponyboy wrote:Wow, tough responses. I’m shocked by the vitriol here. Former players deserve better. If Dickerson, James, and Armstrong say there’s a problem, you listen. And you fix it. End of story.


Dickerson wants a private plane and a check to come back

James is a [deleted]

Armstrong is probably correct
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby ponyboy » Wed Oct 09, 2019 8:29 pm

Again, I’m shocked. We can be a lot more gracious than this.
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby mrydel » Wed Oct 09, 2019 8:32 pm

I get no special treatment.

But in all seriousness, Ramon is doing a great job of organizing special events, outings, golf tournaments, meals, and other gatherings for former players. Never heard of any being rejected.
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby mr. pony » Wed Oct 09, 2019 8:46 pm

SoCal_Pony wrote:“Armstrong also attempted to go to the SMU-USF game in Tampa, Fla., on Sept. 28. He reached out ahead of time to director of former player relations, Ramon Flanigan, for four field passes to the game.

Flanigan reached out to people in the administration, Armstrong said, but eventually responded to Armstrong to say he could only get one ticket. Armstrong appealed to director of major gifts, Bob Sharp, who looked into the matter but eventually told Armstrong there would be only one available to him, according to Armstrong”


Wonder how many requests there were for field passes to that game? My bet is not many.

Harvey Armstrong was an All-American for SMU. He is also in the SMU HOF (deservedly so).

I would have given him the passes.


It was a road game. Maybe not our call.
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby SMU_Alum11 » Wed Oct 09, 2019 9:35 pm

I get both sides. SMU cant help what they feel but I understand why they feel that way. The shame the university had for them and the coaches was silly. We should honor the pony Express in every way we can. We should have them come out to games whenever. We should get them field passes and have them meet players and recruits when compliant.
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Re: Former Pony Express stars excited by SMU's success, but

Postby smupony94 » Wed Oct 09, 2019 9:53 pm

ponyboy wrote:Wow, tough responses. I’m shocked by the vitriol here. Former players deserve better. If Dickerson, James, and Armstrong say there’s a problem, you listen. And you fix it. End of story.


What have Dickerson and James given back to us? Seriously.

James was in Dallas Saturday night, why wasn’t he at the game or hell any game in last 30 years?

Tons of former players at the Tulsa game that had a blast. Those are who I support.
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