Southern Methodist University (SMU) is set to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for the 2024-25 season, departing the American Athletic Conference (AAC), in the latest college football shakeup. In preparation for their transition, SMU and its supporters have been actively raising funds to ensure the school is ready for the change on July 1. However, no one anticipated just how much SMU would raise.

Following the announcement of their ACC move in September 2023, SMU’s athletic department quickly amassed $100 million within a week. Fast forward to present day and the school announced this week that the athletic department has raised $159 million in total over the fiscal year 2023-24.

The news made a big splash and clearly demonstrates that SMU is poised to be a key player in the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) era and the emerging trend of school-funded athletics. For reference Texas A&M previously led the nation with $115 million in donations in 2022-23, with Texas following at $86 million. SMU’s fundraising efforts showcase the potential of its wealthy alumni base.

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The significant financial support and on-field success suggest that the Pony Express is indeed back on track. While schools moving to the SEC and Big Ten are seen as major winners in conference realignment, SMU’s move to the ACC is generating considerable excitement among alumni and supporters.

SMU’s football team had a standout 2023 season, finishing with an 11-3 record and a perfect 9-0 record in the AAC. Since 2019, the team has consistently won at least seven games each season. The team is currently led by head coach Rhett Lashlee.

The men’s basketball program has also experienced recent success under coach Rob Lanier. The Mustangs achieved a 20-win season in 2023-24, marking the sixth time in the last decade that they have reached at least 20 wins. During this period, the team made two NCAA March Madness appearances, in the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons.

In this new era of collegiate sports money talks and the oil barons in Texas seem to have the most. It will be interesting to see how the funds are utilized and if SMU can maintain their momentum as they enter a more difficult conference.

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