In a move that surprised many, SMU president R. Gerald Turner announced the firing of athletic director Steve Orsini on Thursday afternoon.
Orsini, whose work (including the hiring of June Jones) led to a revival of SMU’s football program and an invitation to join the Big East, was hired by SMU in 2006.
And despite receiving a contract extension through 2015 in January of 2011 Orsini finds himself without a job.
“After several discussions over the last few weeks, it became apparent to me that it was necessary to make this change,” Turner said. “While we both are committed to the support of our student-athletes and coaches, a unified effort is required for future progress in our athletics programs.”
From a basketball standpoint Orsini’s final act of business was the hiring of coach-in-waiting Tim Jankovich, who will take over as head coach whenever Larry Brown decides to call it quits.
The question many have is why Turner decided that SMU needed to go in a different direction, and according to Kate Hairopolous of the Dallas Morning News a clash of personalities had a lot to do with the decision.
But the major fall out came amid Turner losing trust in Orsini and his sometimes aggressive style that upset different parties across the Hilltop. SMU has long struggled with accommodating diverging priorities in academics and athletics.
Despite the improvements on the field of play SMU has racked up more than $100 million in deficits over the last seven years, but that doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with Orsini’s firing.
Moody Coliseum is undergoing a $40 million facelift in preparation for SMU’s conference switch, and in Hairopolus’ piece it’s stated that Orsini’s firing shouldn’t have an adverse effect on the basketball program.
Turner said that a national search for a new athletic director will begin immediately, with senior associate director of athletics for external affairs Tim Leonard taking over as AD on an interim basis.
Photo credit: Dallas Morning News/Louis DeLuca