Given the job that he’d done at Chattanooga and his lineage, it was inevitable that athletic director Rick Hart would one day move on to a power conference school. That day has come.
Hart — whose father Dave is the athletic director at Tennessee and whose grandfather, Dave Sr., was once the commissioner of the Southern Conference — has taken the AD job at SMU, a school that is transitioning from Conference USA to the Big East.
Hart replaces Steve Orsini, who was fired on May 17, just a few weeks after engineering one of the more bold offseason men’s basketball coaching hires, Larry Brown. Orsini’s ouster was apparently the result of differences in philosophy with SMU president R. Gerald Turner.
Rick Hart has been at Chattanooga since 2006 after coming from Oklahoma. Perhaps his most astute move among many was the hiring of football coach Russ Huesman, who has resurrected the program and has it pointing toward breaking a long Football Championship Subdivision playoff drought.
Hart has also overseen dramatic increases in athletic giving and shored up some academic problems that led to APR penalties, including a postseason ban, for the football program. The last two years, every athletic team at UTC has met the APR standard. Before 2010-11, the program had received sanctions every year since the system was implemented in 2005.
In the last six years, Chattanooga athletic programs have won 17 regular-season and 22 tournament championships in the SoCon, the most of any school in the league.
Rick Hart has put in the time to be able to one day run a power conference program. The 1994 North Carolina graduate worked at East Carolina and his alma mater before moving to Oklahoma, where from 1999-2006 he served in several capacities, including director of marketing, director of program advancement and branding and senior associate athletics director.