Tennessee appears to have settled on a new strength and conditioning coach.
On Wednesday, athletic director Mike Hamilton said the Vols had reached an agreement to pay strength and conditioning coach Mark Smith the full amount of his two-year agreement with UT.
On Thursday morning, North Texas football coach Todd Dodge confirmed that strength coach Aaron Ausmus was leaving to become strength coach at Tennessee. The Denton Record-Chronicle reported that Ausmus will begin at UT on Monday.
“There is no doubt Aaron had a positive impact on our team,” Dodge told the newspaper. “Our kids will be disappointed because Aaron is a good coach.”
He’s also well-connected to the past and present at Tennessee.
Ausmus was a two-time track All-American at Tennessee and claimed the 1997 NCAA championship in the indoor shot put.
After finishing his career with the Vols, he worked as a graduate assistant strength coach and then a part-time strength and conditioning assistant at Tennessee.
In 2001, he became an assistant strength coach at Southern California, where he crossed paths with UT head coach Lane Kiffin and assistant head coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron later hired Ausmus as his head strength coach at Ole Miss.
After Ole Miss fired Orgeron, Ausmus remained in Mississippi as a personal trainer before taking over at North Texas.
Ausmus will replace Smith, who is no longer with the program after joining Kiffin’s staff in December. No one from Tennessee has publicly commented as to why Smith was let go.
Attempts to reach Smith have been unsuccessful, and he declined to provide specifics on his situation to ESPN.com.
“What’s done is done,” Smith told the Web site. “I think everybody kind of knows what’s going on there. I just want to let it lie and move on. I don’t think anything else needs to be said.”
Hamilton said Wednesday that Tennessee would continue to pay Smith, who signed a memorandum of understanding worth $390,000 that runs through December of 2010. Should Smith land a job elsewhere, UT must make up the difference in salary, if any, for the length of the agreement.
Date Set for 2012 Opener: Tennessee’s appearance in the Chik-fil-A Kickoff Game against N.C. State to begin the 2012 season will be held Sept. 1. The game will be held in the Georgia Dome and be broadcast by ESPN.
Alabama defeated Clemson in the Kickoff Game last season, its first year. The Crimson Tide will face Virginia Tech in this year’s Chik-fil-A Kickoff Game.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.