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SMU walk-on blasts student body for ‘pee-wee football’ experience

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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Stephen Nelson is bitter.

The sophomore receiver from Beaverton, Ore., came to SMU hoping that the change in football culture sparked by coach June Jones and back-to-back bowl trips would have been enough to get the fans on board with a football program that has been a national doormat since repeated NCAA violations earned the program the "Death Penalty" in the late 1980s. So far, it sounds like he's been utterly disappointed.

In an op-ed for the student-run Daily Campus, Nelson calls out SMU fans, mostly the student body, for their poor showing during last week's 38-17 win against defending Conference USA champion Central Florida:

The UCF game was a testament to how stubborn and pathetic our student body is, and how our school has completely failed to capture the attention of a city.

It wasn't halfway through the second quarter when students began to whine about the heat and leave. I'm sorry you guys had to sit in your air conditioned homes during the summer while my teammates and I sweated in three months of 100-degree heat preparing for the season. I'm sorry a 38-17 whooping of the defending conference champs wasn't thrilling enough for you.

Those are some harsh words for a fan base that isn't used to having a good football team and quite honestly, isn't used to paying attention to SMU athletics as a whole.{YSP:MORE}

The Mustangs play in the heart of a metropolis that just got done celebrating an NBA championship and is in the midst of celebrating a World Series berth for the Texas Rangers. And even though the Dallas Cowboys aren't dominating the NFL, they always have been and always will be the biggest show in town. Even where college football is concerned, Dallas is Longhorn country, and Fort Worth-based TCU is coming off a Rose Bowl win to cap a perfect season.

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Surprise: SMU football isn't exactly a hot ticket.

Still, that has to be frustrating for Nelson and his teammates, who have earned a little attention after back-to-back bowl games — the Mustangs' first after a 25-year drought — and five consecutive wins this year since a season-opening loss at Texas A&M:

Don't be surprised now when I say it's more fun for us to play on the ROAD than it is at home. At least the opposing team's fans show up, and the game experience resembles what I dreamed about rather than the pee-wee football experience we have here where it seems only the players' parents are in the stands.

To understand SMU's present fan apathy means understanding its past and the turmoil the program has endured since the NCAA shut the program in 1987. Under Jones, SMU has come out of the shadow of national disgrace and actually put a product on the field that's worth watching. Quite honestly, SMU probably has had more fan attendance in the past two years than it has had in the previous 20. It has definitely gotten more attention from the national media and its games are more readily found on national television.

While it's easy for the players to compare their fan base to those across the conference and be upset, it's probably a better gauge to compare their fan base to those for the teams over the last two decades. Then, players like young Stephen Nelson might appreciate how far SMU has actually come during the past couple years instead of complaining about how far it still has to go.

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.

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