For the past five weeks, there’s been a question overshadowing the SMU football program: Would this be the final year for head coach Sonny Dykes?
Before that question was answered officially, SMU already answered the next question: Who will replace Dykes?
Miami (Fla.) offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, formerly an offensive coordinator at SMU, was announced as the next head coach of the Mustangs on Monday morning.
“As with previous transitions, our process was thorough and competitive. Ultimately, though, our conversations kept leading us back to one man — Rhett Lashlee,” athletic director Rick Hart said in a written statement. “Rhett’s ability to connect with recruits, his passion and love for his players and his alignment with our vision and values are among the many reasons he has been selected to lead SMU Football. We will provide Rhett with the support and resources he needs to bring a championship to the Hilltop, and are thrilled to welcome Rhett back to SMU.”
Lashlee met with SMU players Monday morning, sources told The Dallas Morning News. Senior offensive lineman Hayden Howerton, the school record holder for games played and games started, tweeted after, “The future of SMU Football is in GREAT hands.”
“I am humbled and excited to be returning to SMU to lead Dallas’ College Football Team,” said Lashlee in a statement. “I want to thank President [Gerald] Turner, Rick Hart and the members of the search committee for this opportunity. My family and I look forward to engaging the community and continuing to strengthen the program’s ties to the city. On the field, we want to build on the foundation of success we’ve established and compete for — and win — championships.”
The process to hire Lashlee happened quick. Rumors about Dykes heading to rival TCU swirled all throughout SMU’s final week of the regular season.
Last week, knowing Dykes to TCU was an inevitable possibility, SMU started doing interviews, according to multiple sources.
Lashlee, 38, was quickly identified as the front-runner for the job. On Sunday, after Miami’s 47-10 road win over Duke, Lashlee was already in Dallas to meet with administration, according to a source.
TCU hasn’t announced Dykes as its next football coach, though that’s expected to happen soon.
Part of the reason the process went so fast was because there is already familiarity there.
Lashlee — a two-time finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s best assistant coach — spent two seasons as SMU’s offensive coordinator, including the 10-win season in 2019. SMU averaged nearly 42 points per game that season, which was good for seventh-most in the country.
He was hired before the 2020 season to lead Miami. This year, Miami finished the regular season with the 26th-best scoring offense in the country, averaging 34.1 points per game.
SMU moved fast to hire Lashlee, and he is already moving fast to assemble his staff. According to multiple sources, Lashlee had preliminary discussions last week with coaches at SMU and outside of it about joining his potential staff.
It’s been a long five weeks for SMU, including a stretch of losing four of its last five games. On Monday, for the biggest hire of the season, SMU moved as swiftly as possible.