Daily Egyptian

Price-Smith leaving SIU Track and Field

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

Southern Illinois University track and field brought home three NCAA National Championships last season but will now be in search of a new head coach.

Connie Price-Smith, who has coached 14 seasons at SIU and is one of six Salukis in the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame, accepted a job as director of the track and field program as well as track and field coach at University of Mississippi on Tuesday.

“It is a great opportunity to be in the [Southeastern Conference],” she said. “I want to be known as a head coach of a program that is good at everything, not just throws.”

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University of Mississippi has never had an NCAA Champion in a throwing event.

On July 15, Price-Smith was announced as the head coach for the Team USA women for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, making her the only SIU coach of all time in any sport to be an Olympic head coach.

John Smith, SIU’s throws coach and Price-Smith’s husband, will also leave SIU for a new position at Ole Miss. Price-Smith said they are a package deal and leaving SIU was not an easy decision.

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“It was one of the saddest days of my life when I made the decision, and I’m sure John felt the same way,” Price-Smith said. “We love SIU… and leaving and going to Ole Miss is not going to change that. It’s family, it’s home. We’ll be in different colors… but SIU will always be a part of us.”

Athletic Director Tommy Bell said the state’s current budget situation will not hinder replacing the coaches.

“We know because of the success that [Price-Smith] had here that we’ll have a lot of people interested in our program,” he said. 

J.C. Lambert, current volunteer assistant coach and former Saluki thrower, said he would apply for Smith’s job as SIU’s throws coach. 

“Having people like them on your side is a golden ticket because they’re well known and well respected,” he said. “I’ll take the things I’ve learned from them and apply it to my coaching career.”

Lambert said he thought Price-Smith and Smith would be there at least a couple more years, if not their entire careers. 

News of Price-Smith’s departure comes after a 2014-15 season with three NCAA National Champions to boost her coaching total to eight. Freshman Raven Saunders won the shot put both indoors and outdoors while junior DeAnna Price won the hammer throw outdoors.

Saunders said Price-Smith was a mother figure away from home and Smith kept her focused.

After the success she’s had this past year, Saunders said she will follow Price-Smith and Smith to Ole Miss.

“Trying to go someplace else would make no sense,” Saunders said.

Freshman pole vaulter Lindsey Murray said she is unsure if she will leave SIU after hearing about the departure of Price-Smith.

“Coach Connie has brought so much into the program,” Murray said. “Her being there was a big part of my decision of going to SIU.”

Senior runner Juan Carrera said he will stay at SIU because of his teammates. 

“I can’t bear the thought of leaving and knowing [teammates] may not follow,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it. You think about your teammates.”

This story will be updated when more information becomes available. 

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