Clemson assistant Chad Morris the new coach at SMU
DALLAS (AP) Chad Morris gave a nod to Hall of Famer Larry Brown, the SMU basketball coach who had a front-row seat for the introduction of the football program's new leader.
And then Morris, who was Clemson's offensive coordinator the past four seasons, took a moment to thank a high school coach for attending Monday's news conference.
''Even though you did kick my tail not too long ago,'' Morris said, drawing laughter in a rotunda filled with students, players and administrators. ''That's OK.''
It was Morris' way of illustrating one of the reasons he got this shot at his first college head coaching job - and why he decided a moribund SMU program was the right fit.
''I'm a Texas high school football coach. That's who I am,'' said Morris, a Dallas native who attended SMU games as a kid at old Texas Stadium. ''I think that Texas high school football coaches do it the right way.''
The 45-year-old Morris spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas, going 32-0 and winning a pair of state championships in his only two seasons at Lake Travis in the Austin area. That's when another former Texas high school coach, Arizona State's Todd Graham, hired him as Tulsa's offensive coordinator.
Morris moved on to Clemson a year later and helped the Tigers to a 41-11 record, the 2011 ACC championship and four bowl berths with an up-tempo spread offense that previously produced some of the top high school quarterbacks in Texas. He also was in charge of recruiting his home state.
''I've learned over my career every place is different and here the connection to Texas high schools is more important than anywhere else I've ever been,'' SMU athletic director Rick Hart said. ''It was certainly something we were looking for.''
Morris has a major rebuilding job in front of him, with the Mustangs (0-11) a loss at Connecticut away from their second winless season since 2003. June Jones took SMU to the first of four bowl games in 2009 - just a year after he was hired - but he quit two weeks into this season with the program in disarray again.
''You're going to see an exciting brand of football,'' said Morris, whose high school record as a head coach was 169-38 at five schools. ''We're going to be one of the biggest turnarounds in college football before this is over with. But it's going to take a lot of work.''
Morris coached former SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert at Lake Travis, and 2012 ACC Player of the Year Tajh Boyd at Clemson. The Tigers have had the top three scoring seasons in school history since Morris arrived.
Finding a quarterback will be Morris' first priority. The Mustangs have had four different starters this season in Garrett Krstich, Matt Davis, Neal Burcham and Kolney Cassel.
''That's top on our list in recruiting,'' Morris said. ''That's top on our list in development in the spring. And that'll be the same thing next year as we talk.''
Morris graduated from Texas A&M in 1992, the same year he started his high school coaching career at tiny Eustace, about 60 miles southeast of Dallas.
His head coaching stops included Stephenville after Baylor coach Art Briles won multiple state championships there in the 1990s. Morris also won a state title at Bay City, near Houston.
''I think he's a great hire,'' Briles said. ''I know him. He's a very innovative coach, very dynamic, and I think he'll do a great job there.''
For Morris, the recruiting of Texas high schools now starts in the Dallas area.
''There are some great players right here underneath our own wing span, within a quarter of a tank of gas drive,'' he said. ''We're just going to make it real hard for these guys to leave here. We're not going to play second fiddle to anybody.''