Billy Surface

Sports

Sonny Dykes Is Making the Mustangs Relevant Again

SMU’s head football coach discusses the team’s season and new Dallas-centered marketing.

We’re talking as your Mustangs are 6-0, just a couple of days after the triple overtime win against Tulsa that the Morning News called the Miracle on Mockingbird. If this interview proves to be a jinx and you lose every remaining game this season, will you forgive me? [laughs] Hopefully that won’t be the case.

Who is your favorite player on the team? That’s a tough one. There’s a bunch of them. You know, you have the superstar guys that you really like and that everybody knows. And then there are some walk-on kids that nobody knows who they are, and you just love the way they work, and they never get any credit. I know that’s a lame answer, but that’s the truth.

Can you pay for a meal in this town, or is everything pretty much free now? The great thing about being in Dallas is I can still be anonymous. I go to Starbucks every day, right by campus, and not one person in there knows who I am. I get to live a low-profile lifestyle, which is really attractive to me. It’s better for my family that way. It keeps us a little more grounded.

What’s it going to take to get fans to fill up Ford Stadium? I think we’re making some progress. I was really impressed with the crowd we had Saturday against Tulsa. The No. 1 thing we have to do is put a quality product on the field. We’ve got to make it a great experience for people when they come to the games.

This year’s marketing campaign is all about embracing Dallas. How involved were you with coming up with that? I had that idea before I even took the job here at SMU, getting Dallas on board. Our creative staff did a great job of taking some ideas and putting them on paper. The billboard campaign with pictures of SMU players tied to their local high schools was obviously a big deal. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do through the years at different schools, market directly to the high school players. You’re celebrating somebody who went to that high school. They’re driving by every day on their way to school, and they see this billboard of a kid, and they say, “Wow, if he can do that, I can do that.”

How soon before SMU will get into a better conference? First of all, I think the American Athletic Conference is better than people think it is. Our conference right now has the same number of teams ranked in the AP Top 25 as the Big 12 does. But we have to have success where we are first. We have to keep putting a good team on the field, keep winning ballgames, compete for conference championships. And then if some type of realignment happens down the road, we’ll be in a good position.

How did you pick up the nickname Sonny? My real name’s Daniel, no middle name. And my dad had a best friend he knew all his life named Sonny Everett. So that’s how I picked it up. It’s certainly not because of my disposition.

Does SMU president Gerald Turner call you Coach? [laughs] He calls me whatever he wants.

If you weren’t coaching football, what would you be doing for a living? I’ve always had an interest in aviation, and I kind of thought at some point maybe I wanted to be a pilot. And I love architecture. But I love sports and being around young people. If I had a little bit more of a regular job, I would probably be coaching a little league football team or something. I’m really lucky to get to do what I do.

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