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Aug. 9, 2013

As I reflect on my first year on the Hilltop (official as of Tuesday, August 13, 2013), there are a number of moments that stand out. While it was not related to Athletics, the dedication and opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center sits atop the highlights. That was, and remains, a special and impactful moment for the entire SMU community. Of course, I also think about attending commencement on the Historic Main Quadrangle and watching our teams compete for the first time - with ten programs advancing to postseason play and five claiming conference championships or a bowl victory. I recall the detours and cranes: tangible signs of the progress we have made, and are making, at SMU. I reflect upon how much the conference landscape shifted over a short few months and the leadership on display as we navigated each wave. Most of all, however, I am reminded of the quality people I have met and worked alongside during my first year in Dallas. The combination of strong community and alumni support, the talent and dedication of our student-athletes and the leadership of our university administration, coaches and staff were instrumental to our success.

Operationally, the development and installation of our Strategic Plan for Mustang Athletics, "The SMU Advantage," established clearly defined roles, expectations and standards throughout our department. The framework for The SMU Advantage consists of our vision, mission, values and goals, all of which serve to establish a culture and mindset that sets our direction and aligns us with the Centennial Plan for SMU.

It is my sincere hope that the 2012-13 academic year serves as a source of pride in the present, as well as motivation for an even greater future. I know I am more excited today to be a Mustang than I was when I joined the SMU family one year ago. Oftentimes driving into campus, I literally pause to look around and think, "How lucky am I to get to come to work here every day?" Although we have significant challenges ahead, I have faith that, together, we will strengthen our athletics programs to be more nationally competitive in all that we do.

As always, I invite you to contact me if you have questions, suggestions or concerns regarding the direction of SMU Athletics. Your feedback is important and appreciated.

And now, to the mailbag and updates on the issues that are most important to you...

Grant (Dallas): With Tim Leonard and Tim McMurray having left for new opportunities, can you talk a little about the type of people you will be looking for to replace them? What types of skills, experiences and personalities will you be prioritizing?

Answer: Tim and Tim did a great job while at SMU. The growth we experienced in giving the past several years has been well documented; and they led the team responsible for generating record levels of support for our athletics program. You always hate to lose good people, but these moves (AD at Towson and Sr. Associate AD at Maryland, respectively) represent steps forward for both Tims and their families. For that reason, we are happy for them and view this as an opportunity to build upon our recent success and elevate our development efforts to even greater heights.

We are currently working with University Development and External Affairs to review our existing structure, confirm our vision for this unit and finalize our strategy for the transition period. There has already been tremendous interest in both positions. We will be seeking to recruit talented replacements capable of brining new ideas and perspectives to our team. Some required traits are: impeccable character, dependability, likability, leadership and a proven work ethic. We have placed a high priority on community engagement and increasing private support, so these two hires are important to the continued evolution and success of our entire department.

Tyler (Kouts, Ind.): 1) Do you see a long term partnership between SMU and the AAC? 2) After the Moody renovation is complete, what will be the capacity it can hold?

Answer: As I have stated many times regarding our membership in the American Athletic Conference, we are "in it to win it!" We are focused on consistently finishing atop the league in every measurable metric - graduation rate, APR, championships, national rankings, postseason competition, attendance, giving, etc. If we are great where we are, our future will be bright.

With regard to Moody Coliseum, capacity will be right around 7,000. This is a perfect size for us and will meet all of our needs. We can't wait to reopen this historic venue in front of a sellout crowd this January!

Please keep your questions coming. Your input is important to me. Remember, if you have a question or concern, contact me through this form, or email us at smumustangs@smu.edu. You can also reach me on Twitter at @AD_RickHart.

We will be transitioning to a bi-weekly schedule as we head into the fall, so my next column will "drop" in two weeks, on Friday, August 23. Until then, Go Mustangs and Pony Up!

Rick Hart, Director of Athletics

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MISSION OF SMU ATHLETICS
In alignment with the educational mission of the University, we engage the community in meaningful ways and develop the resources necessary to graduate Student-Leaders and pursue championships. Above all else, we prepare Students for life.