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Sports Then and Now



SMU Football: Back From The Dead 17

Posted on December 20, 2009 by Dean Hybl
SMU vs. East Carolina

More than 20 years after being given the "death penalty" by the NCAA, SMU football is heading back to a bowl game.

Illustrating that in college football even death isn’t permanent, the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Mustangs will take the field for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl this week, 25 years after playing in their last bowl game and 23 years after their program was left for dead by the NCAA.

For an entire generation of fans, SMU is best known for having the only football program ever given the “death penalty” by the NCAA for repeated rules violations. However, to define the football history of the school only by the last 25 years is to neglect a rich and historic tradition that is an important part of college football history.

Though the football programs at Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Christian (TCU) are all older, it didn’t take long after starting football in 1915 for SMU to join them to form a dominant football juggernaut within the state of Texas. Between 1927 and 1941, each school claimed a share of at least one national championship.

In 1915, Texas and Texas A&M were among the founding members of the Southwest Conference. SMU joined the league in 1918 and soon was contending for league titles.

The first great football team at SMU was under the guidance of coach Ray Morrison in 1923. The Mustangs registered shutouts in seven of their nine games and outscored their opponents 207-9 while claiming their first SWC title with a perfect 9-0 record.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
      January 29, 2022 | 4:43 pm
      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

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