The SMU Mustangs failed to get bowl eligible in 2013, finishing their first season in the AAC at just 5-7, ending a four-year streak of bowl appearances. Despite taking a step back this season, the school announced a three-year extension with head coach June Jones that will keep him with the program through 2017. While the product in 2013 wasn’t his best work, Jones has done more than enough to earn the extension with SMU.
When Jones came to SMU from the Hawaii Warriors in 2008, the Mustangs were stuck in a 24-year bowl drought. After going just 1-11 in his first season, Jones got SMU back to the postseason in 2009 for the first time since the 1984 Aloha Bowl against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Jones not only ended the bowl drought, he turned SMU into a perennial postseason participant, qualifying for four-straight bowl games before the 2013 season (winning three of them). It’s the longest bowl-streak in school history, surpassing the three-straight bowls that SMU went to from 1982-84.
Even this season, just Jones’ second losing season since taking over SMU, the Mustangs were close to keeping their bowl streak alive on several occasions. After winning two straight games in mid-November, SMU improved to 5-5 on the season with two games to go (which they unfortunately lost). Three of the team’s losses this season came by four points or fewer, including a 17-13 near-upset of the AAC champion and No. 16 ranked Central Florida Knights in the regular season finale.
Despite their lack of wins to show for it, Jones continued to develop quarterback Garrett Gilbert who had a career senior season. Gilbert set personal bests in completion percentage (66.5), completions (335), yards (3,528), touchdowns (21), and quarterback rating (136.2) while leading the nation’s No. 8 passing offense this season and cutting his interceptions in half in 2013, throwing just seven after throwing 15 in 2012. Jones continues to build the program up to run his pass-heavy, spread attack as they move up into a new conference.
While it may not be the glory days of the program, SMU is on the right path back to relevance in college football. Jones’ average of six wins a season is double the average of his predecessor Phil Bennett, who managed just 18 wins in the six seasons before Jones took the job. He’s the most successful coach that SMU has had since Bobby Collins ran things from 1982-86 (though his tenure was cut short by the infamous NCAA death penalty imposed on the program). There is still plenty of room to grow for SMU but Jones is the right man for the job and his extension is well-deserved and a great step in the right direction for the program.