CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- With Rick Hart officially introduced as the new athletic director at Southern Methodist University, it was time for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to take the first step in finding his replacement.
Chancellor Dr. Roger Brown did just that Monday in naming Laura Herron the school's interim athletic director. Herron currently serves as UTC's senior associate athletic director and senior women's administrator. She will continue her primary duties of overseeing compliance while assuming Hart's previous role.
"I have been here a long time and I have a good feel for what we need here," Herron said in an afternoon press conference in McKenzie Arena's Hall of Fame room. "Rick Hart has left us in great shape, and we have a great team around us with out coaches, staff and administrators.
"We're just going to continue doing what we've been doing this transition period. We're going to keep our focus on the student-athletes and on winning the right way."
Herron is a Dade County native who has spent the last two decades at UTC, where she started as an athletic trainer before moving into administration. While she is incredibly invested in the program and honored to serve as interim AD, she stated she does not plan on purusing the permanent job.
"Maybe in the future it's something I would like to do, but I know there's areas that I haven't been exposed to," Herron said. "So there's other things I would like to learn before tackling that job."
Brown, who has already announced his plans to retire in early 2013, said the search is already underway to recruit and hire Hart's replacement. He said he will play an large role in the process, but the school will also enlist the services of a search firm.
Brown echoed Herron's statement that the athletics department is in a great position, and said the search will focus on finding a person who can build upon the strong foundation established by Hart over the past six years.
"I have no question in my mind that we're going to have tremendous leadership in the interim period," Brown said. "And then we're going to find a fit with Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that will continue our momentum.
"We're not hiring someone to fix a department. We have a great department."
Hart hopes to find similar success at SMU, where he made his debut during a press conference Monday.
Hart wasted no time laying out his vision for the future of Mustangs' athletics, which mirrored the tenants of the "comprehensive excellence" he always pursued at UTC. He pushed the importance of supporting the student-athlete, building relationships in the community, and doing things the right way.
Hart described the SMU post as a great opportunity, but acknowledged it was tough to leave Chattanooga.
"I want to thank our many friends in Chattanooga, as well as the coaches, staff, faculty, students, colleagues, fans and donors at UTC for their encouragement and support," Hart said in his introductory press conference. "I think the conversation we had with the kids the other night was probably the toughest thing I've done in my life, so if you get through that you feel like you can get through anything."
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