At the Lakewood Last Night, A Home-Field Look at SMU Football Doc Pony Excess

Patrick Michels
Director Thaddeus Matula introduces his film.
Mustangs young and old turned out at the Lakewood Theater last night, for a very special screening of Pony Excess -- or "Exce$$," if you prefer -- Southern Methodist film-school grad Thaddeus Matula's ESPN-bound documentary about SMU football's high-scoring, well-paid glory days in the early '80s, when each week brought another win and rumors of another NCAA violation.

As Robert mentioned earlier, the film's part of ESPN's 30 Films for 30 Years series, and it'll be airing for the first time on December 11 at 8 p.m., directly after the Heisman Trophy presentation.

SMU football's sharp climb and sudden death may be a largely forgotten story around the country today, but the crowd last night, peppered with members of those old Mustang teams, was right there for every turn, as Patrick Duffy narrated the story of Dallas's as-seen-on-TV boomtown years and what amounted to an on-campus car dealership for top recruits -- and the years when it all came crashing down. Then-NCAA investigator, now-Big 12 commish Dan Beebe drew at least a couple boos every time he showed up onscreen.

After the film, though, Matula recounted how his perspective shifted as he made the film. Having grown up on campus, the son of a professor, he lived the story as it happened. But, he said, "I finally accepted our culpability, instead of being that homer fan that just didn't believe."

Many in the crowd showed up in the film as well, including quarterback Lance McIlhenny, who joined Matula onstage after seeing the film for the first time. One more bit of Dallas trivia that emerged from the chat that followed the screening: David Whitford, author of the out-of-print A Payroll to Meet and a frequent talking head in the film, also happens to be Det. Dan Stark's brother.

Jump for a look at the trailer and a few more photos from the night.

The Lakewood Theater's lower level filled up before the film began last night.
Quarterback Lance McIlhenny sat for a Q&A after the film.

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