DALLAS (AP) _ Mike Cavan already has turned around football programs in Division II and Division I-AA. On Friday, Southern Methodist hired him to do the same on the Division I level.

``His background of building programs is what caught my eye,'' SMU athletic director Jim Copeland said. ``I think he can pull that off here.''

SMU has a rich athletic history, but the program is still smarting from being shut down a decade ago by the NCAA's first death penalty. Since resuming football in 1989, the Mustangs are 18-67-3.

Last month, Copeland fired Tom Rossley, who had gone 15-48-3 over six years, because he felt the program wasn't headed in the right direction. SMU went 5-6 last season, its first in the Western Athletic Conference.

Contract details were not released.

``I think it's a wonderful opportunity for me, and I'm looking forward to the challenge ahead of me,'' Cavan told Dallas-Fort Worth television station KXAS after arriving in town Friday night prior to a Saturday news conference.

On Thursday, Cavan finished second in voting for the Division I-AA coach of the year after leading East Tennessee State to a 10-3 record and the second round of the playoffs.

Cavan, 48, has been around the game nearly his entire life because his father, Jim, was among the all-time great high school coaches in Georgia.

Mike was a quarterback for his dad and earned all-state honors as a senior, then went to Georgia and was selected the Southeastern Conference's rookie of the year in 1968. He led the Bulldogs to the Sugar Bowl as a sophomore and is still among the school's career passing leaders.

After two years in real estate, he returned to Georgia as a graduate assistant under coach Vince Dooley. He worked his way up the staff over 13 years and was part of 11 bowl teams, including the 1980 national champions.

Cavan's biggest coup at his alma mater was recruiting Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.

In 1986, Cavan got his first head coaching job at Division II Valdosta State, which had begun football in 1982 and had yet to have a winning record. He went 9-2 his first year and wound up 37-22-2 over six seasons.

Cavan moved to East Tennessee State in 1992, taking over a team that had gone a school-worst 1-10. The team went 5-6 his first two years, 6-5 in 1994 and 4-7 in 1995 before the big turnaround this season.

The 10 wins bettered the school record by three. Among them were four victories over top 25 teams.

At SMU, Cavan joins a program that won a national championship in 1935 and has produced Don Meredith, Heisman Trophy winner Doak Walker and his fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Raymond Berry and Forrest Gregg.

The school's last bit of glory came in the ``Pony Express'' days of Eric Dickerson and Craig James, which triggered the pay-for-play scandal that shut down the program in 1987 and '88.

``We tried to emphasize that we have a great athletic tradition,'' Copeland said. ``We need to regain that. ... I think he sees that as another challenge after his last two stops.''