By: Richard W. Humphrey
SMU Football Contributor
On behalf of Timothy O’Farrell Recovery
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – SMU plays Navy this weekend at SMU’s Ford Stadium in their final regular season game of the year. The Midshipmen are ranked 25th in this week’s AP Poll and have clinched the West Division of the American Athletic Conference with a 6-1 conference record to punch their ticket into the Conference Championship game. They are a seven point favorite on the Wynne Las Vegas betting line. Navy has an 8-2 record overall, while SMU comes in at 5-6, needing a win for bowl eligibility.
A win and a trip to a bowl game would mark a wonderful turnaround in two years for SMU’s head football coach Chad Morris. Unfortunately, Morris has become the headline story this week. There have been rumors that he is a top candidate on Baylor’s list of potential head coaches. By Tuesday, the Twitterverse literally exploded with speculation.
One report had Baylor agreeing with Morris on a contract. That was followed by a national writer who assured that the Baylor job had not been offered to anyone. Later, another report surfaced that SMU had offered Morris a raise and an extension to his current contract to stay. Another comment attributed to Morris was that he denied talking to Baylor.
Morris’s comment is probably true. He just didn’t bother to mention who his agent might have spoken with.
There’s no question that Morris leaving would be a huge loss for SMU. He has done a marvelous job of re-energizing the program. He’s cashed in his 16 years of high school coaching to greatly upgrade recruiting. Attendance is up. A bowl game this year is still a possibility. It’s a far cry from the one win season June Jones left the school with in 2014.
It was foolish for SMU fans to think that Morris would stay long term without SMU gaining entrance to one of the power five conferences. When the Big 12 decided not to expand this summer, the chance of that happening went almost to zero. On the other hand, it was reasonable to hope that Morris would stay for three or even four years to get the football program back on track.
However, it is still somewhat surprising that Morris would jump so soon for the Baylor program. The scandal that took down former head coach Art Briles and high ranking school officials still has more ugly turns to come. There are legal challenges that will be fought into the next decade, and the NCAA is still lurking in the back ground. With the mood of the country toward domestic violence, the NCAA will almost certainly come down with penalties. The scandal has already shredded Baylor’s 2016 recruiting class, and there are just two commits for 2017. A Baylor recovery from this scandal won’t come soon.
There will certainly be high profile jobs available to Morris if he stays at SMU for another year or two, and probably better jobs than Baylor.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It’s likely there is considerable substance to the rumors. Hopefully (but not likely), the rumor mill won’t detract from the players’ and coaches’ focus on Saturday’s game. A win is important for SMU, no matter who the coach is next year.
Late Tuesday, another tweet from Max Hovenden surfaced indicating that Morris had informed the team that “he’s NOT going”. That may or may not prove to be true, but even if Morris to Baylor doesn’t pan out, there are already and will be more high profile coaching jobs available. Morris could still land somewhere other than SMU or Baylor next season.
PER SOURCE: Chad Morris informed the #SMU team that he’s NOT going
— Max Hovenden (@MaxHovenden) November 22, 2016