May 5, 1998
COLUMBIA, Mo.-- The University of Missouri Athletic Department has announced the appointment of Brian Smith as the Tigers' head wrestling coach. He succeeds Wes Roper, who stepped aside earlier this year.
Smith has been the head coach at Syracuse University for the past year, after a highly successful tenure as assistant coach at Cornell University from 1993-97, where he worked under Jack Spates, currently the head coach at the University of Oklahoma. He also coached two years on the high school level in his home state of Florida. He is a 1990 graduate of Michigan State University, where he captained the Spartans from 1988-90.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to be back in the Midwest," said Smith, who was the Big 10 Conference runner-up as a senior and ranks fifth on Michigan State's all-time win list. "The Big 10 and the Big 12 are the best conferences in the U.S., and I'm looking forward to building Missouri back up to that level."
"I know the administration, student-athletes, alumni and friends want to get the program back to that competitive level," he continued. "If you're competitive in the conference, you'll be competitive nationally."
A native of Miami, Fla., where his father is a high school football coach, Smith was a two-time Florida state champion in high school. Joining Smith in Columbia will be his wife, Denise, son Quinn, 3, and daughter Kylie, 2.
"Brian was very impressive during his visit with our search committee," said director of business affairs Peter Fields, who headed the committee. "His dedication to the total development of the student-athlete, and his proven abilities as a recruiter, administrator and fund-raiser will serve him well here at Missouri, and parallels the goals the University has established for its intercollegiate athletic program."
Added athletic director Joe Castiglione, "We had a number of excellent candidates for the position, and Brian simply was the best fit for this program and this University. He has succeeded at every level, and his leadership will be an asset at Missouri."
At Cornell, an Ivy League school that does not grant athletic scholarships, Smith had two recruiting classes that ranked in the nation's top-ten. Those athletes provided the core of a Cornell team that placed 10th at the NCAA Tournament in 1993 and 17th in '94. One of his proteges, David Hirsch, won the national championship in 1994 - Cornell's first national champion since 1960.
"I could not have won the NCAA's without Brian," Hirsch said. "I have had a lot of coaches through my years of wrestling and can say that Brian is the most dedicated and hard-working coach I have ever dealt with. He shares a piece of my NCAA title with me." Hirsch is now a fourth-year student at the New York University School of Dentistry.
He's also been an effective fund-raiser, mobilizing alumni and former wrestlers. At Cornell, the wrestling program raised $90,000-100,000 per year. At Syracuse, which had briefly disbanded its wrestling program but reinstated it upon Smith's hiring, fund-raising occupied much of his time. Charged with raising $2 million by the year 2000 to ensure the future of the program, he raised more than $300,000 in less than a year.
"I know Brian will do an outstanding job," said Spates, who will now become a conference foe to his one-time assistant. "He has a good balance of youth and experience, and he's a very well-rounded individual. Brian's a hard worker, an outstanding technician, and he's an excellent recruiter. I think you've got the whole package."
Smith quickly made his mark on the high school level, where he coached a Western High School team that had never placed in the state's top-ten to a second-place finish. The next year, they were fourth. In two years, he coached two state champions and five state placers. Five of those wrestlers went on to compete at the collegiate level.