Thursday, December 16, 2010

ESPN 30 for 30 - Pony Exce$$

Over the last several nights, I watched Pony Exce$$. This is the thirtieth and last installment of ESPN's 30 for 30 film series. The series was commissioned by ESPN to celebrate its 30 year anniversary. I have posted an episode guide for the entire 30 for 30 series here.

Pony Excess is the story of the SMU football program from the late 1970's to the present. In part, it is also the story of Dallas, Texas football and the now defunct Southwestern Conference.

In four seasons from 1981 through 1984, the SMU Mustangs had a record 41 wins, 5 losses and 1 tie. From 1979 to 1982, the backfield featured Eric Dickerson and Craig James. Nicknamed the Pony Express, the backfield of Dickerson and James led SMU to National Championships in 1981 and 1982.

To attract the top prospects in Texas and the nation, a group of SMU boosters aggressively doled out cash payments to players and their families. Many of the players were essentially under contract to play football for SMU and received regular monthly payments.

The program flirted with NCAA violations. Eventually, a disgruntled former player and his family cooperated with a local television station as part of an investigative report. This triggered further investigations which culminated in the NCAA handing down the so-called "death penalty" by canceling SMU's entire 1987 schedule. This is the first and only time that the NCAA has imposed this sanction on a major college football program.

Like a number of the 30 for 30 documentaries, I was not familiar with story. This usually increases my enjoyment; I enjoyed it in part because I literally knew nothing about the topic. As I have said before, my passions do not include college football. I did find the director's style of using quick cuts between interviews more than a little distracting. Pony Excess was one of the few 30 for 30's that was two hours in length. Overall, I would rate it about tenth to fifteenth of the thirty films.

I am sorry to see the series end. Now that I have watched all 30 of the films, I am going to put together a list ranking them.

The film is available on Amazon.

Pony Exce$$ is also available on iTunes.

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