When reached in Toronto for comment John Smith said,
“Same rings, different t-shirts.”
Oxford. Mississippi. USA Olympic head coach Connie Price-Smith has been hired as the head cross country and track & field coach at the University of Mississippi (colloquially known as Ole Miss Rebels). Coming alongside coach Price-Smith is throwing coach and husband–the unconventional rabble-rouser John Smith. Smith is currently in Canada with the USA Pan Am squad.
Coach Smith will be replacing two-time Georgian Olympian მარიამ ქევხიშვილი (Mariam Kevkhishvili).
Athletic director Ross Bjork said, “Coach Price-Smith sets the course for a new era of success in all phases of our program. Her experience as a four-time Olympian, world-class athlete and now the 2016 USA Women’s Olympic head coach, indicates she is one of the most respected members of the track and field community and is more than prepared for this opportunity. We welcome Connie and her husband John to the Ole Miss family. It’s a great day for Ole Miss!”
SEC rules do not allow students with only one season of athletic eligibility to transfer and compete, leaving top-NCAA returners DeAnna Price and Josh Freeman without the option of following the Smiths to Ole Miss and be able to compete in the NCAA. Their future looks bright as SIU is sure to bring in someone who will take care of business.
Southern Illinois alum and Beijing shot put qualifier Jeneva Stevens
“I think it’s a great move. Though Coach Smith loves SIU, Ole Miss will be a good step forward for him. I’m moving to Oxford as well to continue to train with him.”
Southern Illinois alum and world class hammer thrower Gwen Berry
“I’m extremely excited for them… and I’ll decide what to do in a few months, but Mississippi sounds really nice.”
Southern Illinois senior-to-be thrower, NCAA Champion and World Championship qualifier Deanna Price
“You know it’s going to be definitely an obstacle that I’m going to have to overcome but it shouldn’t be a huge ordeal. Coach Connie and Coach Smith are the best-of-the-best when it comes to coaches. They have done so much for this program and have fixed so many issues.
Coach Connie has turned this program around athletically and academically. She set the standard for being great. I feel that some people took for granted on how great we had it. It is definitely going to be hard to fill their shoes. Ole Miss is lucky to have the dynamic duo. I feel with them being there at such an amazing school enriched in history they will be winning conference championships and be a contender at the NCAA championships for the SEC.
As coach Smith said, I am always welcome to come train at Ole Miss when I’m done competing collegiately along with Jeneva (Stevens), Gwen (Berry) and Jessica [Ramsey] can call him any time. He’s the coach who helped build me into who I am. I’ve learned that I can be one of the best in the business if I work hard and stick to the program.
We will see where I’ll land in the future; I have not thought that far ahead [laughter]. I do plan on visiting [Ole Miss] a lot though. They are my family.
I’m just hoping that someone can attempt to fill the shoes coach Connie‘s and Coach Smith‘s have left behind. I wanna have a great senior outdoor season and be a contender at the Olympic Trials.”
Southern Illinois senior-to-be thrower and All-American Josh Freeman
“To be quite honest it really sucks. When I came to SIU, I came because I knew this was the place that I could reach my full potential under the watch of both John and Connie.
After finding out about their departure yesterday, I felt sick to my stomach because I was, and still am, unaware of what the future holds as far as who will be my coach for my final season as an NCAA athlete. Though I am upset they are leaving, I fully understand why they are going. We have zero, zip, no hard feelings between us and I am in full support of their decision.
Coach Connie and Coach John will now show why they are two of the best coaches in the country, and they absolutely deserve this incredible opportunity. They will be able to get the biggest recruits and they will have access to the best facilities. Ole Miss will soon be one of college track and fields biggest powerhouses, and I wish them nothing but the best with their future.
As far as my future plans, if things go as planned I’ll move to Oxford to train with them again.”
Southern Illinois sophomore-to-be and NCAA champion Raven Saunders
“My thoughts on it is that this is a very bittersweet moment.
Sweet because my coaches are finally getting what they deserve and will have everything by going to Ole Miss. Bitter because there are many people that didn’t see this coming and many who will have to make life changing decisions in a matter of just a few weeks.
It’s as if an empire/ dynasty is over. Almost every one of the throwers that came to coach Smith were a lot of kids that no one would take or kids that never would have reached the potential that coach Smith and coach Connie got us to. Now many kids won’t have that opportunity, or will never live through the era that just ended, where coach made the impossible possible. As of now I may probably be leaving SIU but without forgetting everything that being here has taught me. I’m happy for the coaches but sad for what me and my teammates have lost. But God has a plan Ole Miss is gaining a great program by this and SIU track team will rise above this and still be a successful program.
As far as my plans, I’ll decide what I’m doing in the next couple days. I have my release from SIU but I’m not sure what I’ll do.”
New Englander and Ole Miss thrower Kevin Conway
“I’m excited to see what Coach Price-Smith will bring to the program and what we will be able to accomplish this year under a new staff.”
Londoner and Ole Miss thrower Dempsey McGuigan
“I’m over the moon. A hammer coach with great reputation and proven record. Can’t wait to meet him.”