The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Three fired in athletic staff shake-up

By Austin Kilgore

Editor in Chief

[email protected]


Changes in the athletic department have resulted in the firing of three senior associate athletic directors in the past two weeks.

John Koerner, Ed Wisneski and Scott Secules, who combined, have more than 35 years experience at SMU, were all released by new Athletic Director Steve Orsini.

Senior Associate Athletic Director for Business John Koerner was released in August. He described his time at SMU as “the best years of my life, I have no complaints.”

In the time Koerner spent at SMU he worked under three different athletic directors: Doug Single, Forest Gregg, and Jim Copeland. Each time a new director came to SMU, Koerner said he offered his resignation, but was always told he still had a job. Koerner did not make the same offer to Orsini, but was not convinced he wouldn’t be asked to leave.

“Whenever there’s a change in administration, there’s a sense of anticipation that you may not make it,” Koerner said.

Koerner added Orsini had a personal conversation with him to give him the news.

Koerner said he understands Orsini needs to have people he’s comfortable with in senior administrator positions, and bringing in new people can help change the culture of the department.

Koerner had a 26-year long tenure at SMU, beginning with an eight-year stint as the budget director for SMU, before moving to the athletic department in 1989. He served as interim athletic director while former athletic director Jim Copeland was recovering from cancer surgery last spring.

Koerner said he and his wife are going to stay in Dallas, and he will not be pursuing another job in athletics. He said he has been an accountant for 26 years and is ready for a new career. He said he is interested in working in pharmaceutical sales or public administration.

Secules, a former NFL quarterback, worked on the external operations of the athletic department. He oversaw all athletic fundraising, marketing and promotions, ticket sales, sponsorship and media relations.

Secules said he understands why he was let go.

“That’s part of transition,” Secules said, “It’s part of our business.”

Secules said he was called into Orsini’s office Friday morning and given the news before the football team left for Lubbock.

He added many people have been asked to leave. Some were let go right away, and others, once Orsini knew where he wanted to take the athletic department.

Wisneski, on the other hand, did not see his release coming.

“I was given a lot of responsibilities and duties, which were new [right before the firing], so no, I didn’t see this coming.”

Since 1995, Wisneski has helped more than 1,000 student athletes find work with his Preparing Achievers for Lifetime Success program. The voluntary program emphasized life skills and helped athletes adjust once their time on the field was over. Wisneski mainly helped athletes create resumes and maximize their marketability. In some cases, he was able to help place athletes into jobs.

“I never erased a resume,” Wisneski said. “I’m probably the only college administrator with over 1,000 resumes on his computer.”

“This was a passion for me, not a job,” Wisneski said.

While his tenure at SMU is over, Wisneski said he appreciates his time at the university.

“I’ve been reflecting on the enormity of the fact that for the past 18 years, I’ve had the opportunity to have an impact on other people’s lives.”

Wisneski came to SMU in 1988, and in 1989, was the head media relations official during SMU’s first football season back from the death penalty.

Wisneski is pleased with the success of the PALS program, and said it provides a good support system for SMU’s athletes.

“I thought the program was good for the university,” said Wisneski. “It really showed the soul of the school and made SMU stand out.”

Wisneski added he is proud many “first generation” PALS participants from when the program first started have come back to SMU “calling for current athletes” to give back and help them find jobs.

2006 marks the 10th anniversary of the PALS program, and he hopes it will continue.

“I would hope my leaving will not mark the end of the program,” Wisneski said.

Wisneski said he was called into Orsini’s office Friday and was told Orsini is looking for someone “with a different set of skills,” and he would no longer be needed.

In addition to the PALS program, Wisneski was responsible for managing compliance with the NCAA’s rules and regulations. Wisneski said the 500-page regulation book is “more complicated than the IRS,” and he was responsible for interpreting the rules and keeping coaches and athletes informed of changes and recording any violations that occurred in SMU’s athletic department.

While he handled compliance issues last school year, Wisneski said he had “no involvement at all” in the investigation regarding former basketball head coach Jimmy Tubbs and added that incident was handled by former athletic director Jim Copeland and vice president for legal affairs and governmental relations S. Leon Bennett.

Orsini, who came to SMU from the University of Central Florida, just completed his first 90 days as athletic director. In a prepared statement he said:

“When I joined SMU as Director of Athletics in early June, I said that I would review our staffing structure to advance our goals – graduating our student-athletes, winning, increasing attendance, enhancing revenue, and running a program with integrity that provides a great experience for both student athletes and fans. I have determined that we need to restructure. We need to focus more heavily on five key areas: marketing, business operations, compliance, student-athlete development and fund raising. To accomplish this reorganization, I will appoint new associate directors of athletics leading our key functions and reporting directly to me. The aim is to ensure that concentrated, full-time attention is being devoted to our priorities. I look forward to recruiting from among a diverse pool of top candidates in the nation for these positions. At the same time, as we say goodbye to staff members who have served SMU in positions that are being restructured, we wish them the best in pursuing other opportunities.”

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