New SMU coach Morris certain of turnaround despite odds

DALLAS (AP) — Chad Morris was a math major in college, and even got a minor in statistics. So SMU’s new coach knows plenty about numbers and probabilities.

The odds certainly are against his Mustangs in their season opener Friday night, when they are a five-touchdown underdog at home against fourth-ranked Baylor, the two-time defending Big 12 champion.

No math degree is even needed to know just how bad the numbers were last season when SMU won only one game while getting outscored by 30 points a game.

Still, there is one thing Morris is absolutely sure about after returning to his home state for his first college head coaching job.

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“If I didn’t think we could do it, I wouldn’t be here,” Morris said. “So I’d put a probability of 100 percent we’re going to get it done.”

Morris has a winning background, including 16 seasons as a Texas high school coach culminated with consecutive 16-0 state championships at Lake Travis in 2008 and 2009. He had a one-year stop as Tulsa’s offensive coordinator before the past four seasons in that role at Clemson.

“The anticipation leading up to the first game, it will be fun, it will be exciting. But just know that this is a process,” he said. “We’re going to continue to stick to the plan. … After the first game, we’re not going to call it a season, win or lose.”

SMU’s first three games are against the Bears, North Texas and second-ranked TCU, which shared the Big 12 title with Baylor last season. Those teams combined to outscore the Mustangs 144-6 a year ago, with the only touchdown in that span on the game-ending play at North Texas two days before June Jones resigned only two games into the season.

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Morris recalls growing up watching SMU play Baylor and the Horned Frogs when those three private church schools all were in the old Southwest Conference together.

But while Baylor and TCU are now flourishing in the Big 12, the Mustangs are 6-18 the past two seasons in the American Athletic Conference.

“They’re hungry, they are. They have bought into our culture, what we’re trying to establish.” Morris said. “Our motto is one swing a day. Wake up, we have a huge obstacle in front of us, and we’re going to hit the tree in the same spot every day.”

Morris immediately tapped into the local high school coaches after getting hired, and that was a catalyst in signing one of the AAC’s best recruiting classes with only about two months to get that done.

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While his long-term goal is for SMU to become a championship contender, Morris isn’t setting any numerical goal for wins this year. He would like for the Mustangs to make it to a bowl game, but said his first season will be successful if they get to the end and have gotten everything possible out of their players.

“I already judge it a success,” athletic director Rick Hart said. “It is a process, and you’ve got to start somewhere, and we’ve already made a lot of progress where we need to make it. … First, we’ve got to do the things that result in a winning culture. Those are the things that we’ve already witnessed.”