Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/19/12
The SMU Mustangs have not been a name heard much in the national spotlight for a long time in NCAA college football.

Until the last couple seasons, the university had still been recovering from the death penalty given out to Southern Methodist by the NCAA for massive rules infractions.

This is the most severe penalty ever handed out to a football program to date.

It is so significant, that ESPN actually did a 30 for 30 program all about the school, the involved parties,  players, coaches, and the outcome.

This strict violation given had taken literally years to come back from. Still today, the Mustangs are not healed from the culmination of events that led to the charges brought out by the NCAA.

Not until 2009 had SMU made a bowl appearance. Below will explain what happened, the steps involved to bring SMU back into a small portion of the national picture, and where SMU is now and could be headed.

In the tenure of head coach Ron Meyer (1976-1986) was the underlying issue that led the sanctions to come down. Meyer had always been looked upon for his recruiting tactics. He was very pushy and used material items to lure in players.

His most allured players created what was later referred to as "The Pony Express." This consisted of workhorse running back Craig James, and showcase player Eric Dickerson, as well as Charles Waggoner. From 1980-1984 the Mustangs created a 45-5-1 record.

The highest win percentage still to date in that span. To bring all of this together, $61,000 in booster payments and a slush fund, which was used to pay players was found. This dated clear back into the early 1970s.

The sanctions brought down by the NCAA were some of the harshest still to date. The Mustangs were intelligible to compete in the 1987 football year. They could not practice, play games, or give out scholarships.

In 1988, the team could only play in games that were not considered home games and did not accumulate in conference play. As time went on SMU did not participate in the 1988 season because of the players that the team would have been forced to compete with.

SMU only had one winning season dating to 2007. Then 2009 put Southern Methodist in their first bowl appearance in 25 years. SMU had shown a lot of interest in becoming an addition to an automatic qualifying conference. Most likely the Big 12, as that is basically a culmination of their old Southwestern conference. But instead, ended up announcing that after this season they will leave the Conference USA and join the Big East.

For 2012, with head coach June Jones sticking around and not leaving for Arizona State, the Mustangs are coming off an 8-5 season. They had made a lot of noise in the Conference USA. Garrett Gilbert will be a Texas transfer to SMU. If he will be the signal-caller he will have to improve his turnover rate.

Zach Line will be in the backfield to handle the carries again. He has shown great reliability. The defense has lost a lot of players and will look to young talent to help them. With both defensive ends gone, the Mustangs will look to their great experience in their linebacker corps to shore up the defense.

All in all, Southern Methodist looks to have the firepower and the defense to put this team in line for a winning record and another bowl invite.

Southern Methodist is not completely back. But they are absolutely headed in the right direction. With continued growth and success, this team will have a shot in an AQ conference next year. The Mustangs have had a long road back but with the direction of coaching and athletic directors, they are a team who seems to have learned and put the past behind them.

This is a must-watch team in the Conference USA this year. 

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