Rick Hart has been named SMU’s new Director of Athletics, President R. Gerald Turner announced Monday, July 16. Hart becomes the 13th Director of Athletics at SMU, arriving on the Hilltop after six years as Director of Athletics at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“We are very happy to welcome Rick and his family to SMU,” said Turner. “In his time at Chattanooga, Rick has demonstrated a commitment to athletic and academic success, fiscal responsibility, and a focus on the student-athlete experience. I am confident that he has the skills and abilities to keep SMU Athletics moving forward as we transition to the BIG EAST and become an even more prominent member of the college athletics landscape.”
“I would like to thank President Turner and the Board of Trustees for entrusting me with the responsibility to lead SMU Athletics during this exciting and historic time for our campus,” said Hart. “President Turner’s vision for excellence is inspiring, and we look forward to partnering with the faculty, alumni, fans and donors as we seek to establish a model athletics program. Together, we will accelerate SMU’s rise to national prominence as we prepare for the transition to the BIG EAST Conference.”
At UTC, Hart transformed the Athletics Department into a model program. During his tenure, the Mocs captured 17 regular season and 22 tournament Southern Conference championships, more than any other SoCon school, and competed in numerous NCAA Championship events. Hart also guided UTC to strong NACDA Learfield Director’s Cup finishes, with three of the Mocs’ top-5 all-time NACDA Director’s Cup finishes coming in his tenure. In addition, UTC captured its first Germann Cup in 2007-08, signifying the best all-around women’s sports program in the Southern Conference.
In the classroom, Moc student-athletes showed continuous improvement in overall grade point averages and tied the highest semester mark on record in the spring of 2012. In all, over half of the Mocs’ student-athletes made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in each of the last six semesters.
Hart made fiscal stewardship a priority upon his arrival, and with his leadership and a commitment from the department as a whole, UTC Athletics made significant strides towards reducing the financial burden on the institution and adherence to university allocated budgets.
Hart developed and installed the Strategic Plan for UTC Athletics, focusing on the student-athlete experience, increasing ticket sales and fundraising, creating innovative partnerships, improving athletics facilities and the addition of quality coaches.
Hart also focused his attention on strengthening the relationship between UTC and the local community, increasing the department’s outreach efforts and cultivating relationships with local and national media.
Hart has served as a member of the NCAA Division I Championship/Sports Management Cabinet, the FSC Athletics Directors Association Executive Committee and the NACDA Executive Committee. He has been active in the community and was a sought-after speaker among the area’s many civic organizations. In addition to his selection as the Grand Marshal of the 2007 Region 4 Special Olympics, Hart was appointed to the Board of Directors with the March of Dimes – River Valley Division, the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee and the Finley Stadium Corporation. He also served as a member of the Chattanooga Downtown Rotary and the United Way of Greater Chattanooga Leadership Club.
Hart arrived on the UTC campus after serving seven years at the University of Oklahoma in various athletics administrative capacities. Hart’s career with the Sooners began in 1999 as the Director of Marketing and Licensing. He became Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing and Licensing in 2001, and developed and implemented marketing campaigns which generated annual ticket revenues in excess of $19.5 million. Hart was promoted to Associate Athletics Director for Program Advancement and Branding in 2003 and Senior Associate Athletics Director in 2006.
Hart has also worked in athletics for the University of North Carolina and East Carolina University and has served with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
A 1994 graduate of UNC, Hart earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, Health and Sport Science. Hart and his wife, Allison, also a graduate of North Carolina, are proud parents of Trevor and Caroline.
A third-generation athletics administrator, Hart’s father, Dave, currently serves as Director of Athletics at the University of Tennessee, and his late grandfather, Dave Sr., served in a variety of roles within collegiate athletics including a stint as the Commissioner of the Southern Conference from 1987-91.