Commentary: Football video doing its part to help bridge gaps at SMU
SMU likes to brag about having the best creative team in all of college football. Regarding the program producing videos, whether hype vids, highlight vids or basic attention-getters, they are definitely among the cream of the crop.
One of SMU's latest videos has done everything from receive ultimate praise to catch major heat. The video showcases a few popular stops in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas.
The tweet that went with the video reads: "It doesn't matter where you went or where you played, SMU will always be here to represent our city and its people."
It's a noble concept, and from a marketing perspective, it sells in a multiple ways. SMU under head coach Sonny Dykes has been consistent in attempts to bridge the gap between where SMU is located -- University Park, one of the most affluent areas of Dallas County -- and where SMU wants to represent, which is all parts of Dallas -- including the less-targeted, inner-city areas prior to Dykes' arrival.
This is where the beef hits with some.
A lot of people south of Interstate 35 don't have a connection with SMU -- and vice versa. In the same breath, some representing inner-city Dallas have argued that SMU in the past hasn't tried hard enough reaching out to those communities.
There have been complaints that the video was SMU simply pandering to a group it truly has tried to recruit. Some say many at SMU have never stepped foot in communities like South Dallas, Oak Cliff, Pleasant Grove, Highland Hills, etc.
And to a point, some have a case. To a point.
But here's where Dykes has been really good at what he does off the field. There's room for change, and that's one of the reasons why he, running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Ra'Shaad Samples and the rest of the SMU staff are here.
You'll hear both coaches -- and pretty much everyone on staff -- say the same thing over and over again: "We want SMU to be Dallas' team."
That doesn't happen overnight. But all little efforts help to turn negative attitudes around.
Recruiting Dallas -- every part -- has been a constant since Dykes arrived to the Hilltop in December 2017. Since his arrival, the Mustangs have had multiple players on the roster representing all parts of the county.
SMU's "Born and Raised" campaign features home-grown talent on billboards in their hometowns. The campaign includes a South Dallas billboard for receiver Danny Gray, an Oak Cliff billboard for safety Chevin Calloway and even a Pleasant Grove billboard for Samples.
The 2021 recruiting class has 14 commits, three of whom represent the Dallas ISD. SMU is excited about safety Isaiah Nwokobia (Skyline), running back Brandon Epton Jr. (Kimball) and all-purpose back Jayleen Record (Madison), three commits who also are excited about Saturday afternoons being dedicated to their respective communities.
The marketing video shouldn't be viewed as a slap in the face to inner-city Dallas. If anything, it's a step for change, baby steps if you will. It's definitely good change -- change that should have happened way before the Dykes era, but good change nonetheless.
North Crowley assistant coach Demerick Gary, who played defensive tackle at SMU from 2015-19, is one of the first to defend SMU's mission. He's a proud Oak Cliff native, a Kimball graduate, and someone who understands exactly what SMU is doing.
"A lot of kids from where I'm from don't get the opportunities that I've had," Gary told The HillTopics in a March interview. "For me to maximize it as much as I can, that's been my biggest goal."
While on the SMU campus, Gary was often spotted wearing an "Oak Cliff" jacket. He spoke positively about Kimball to those who knew nothing about the program -- or anything outside of University Park. He even invited folks to Oak Cliff to get their own experiences.
More of that needs to happen. And Dykes and his staff fully understand that.
Bridging the gap has to start somewhere. SMU's creative team shouldn't be vilified for that.