ORONO — University of Maine softball coach Deb Smith announced her resignation Friday, but didn’t give specific reasons for doing so in a press release from the school.
University of Maine athletic director Steve Abbott said he didn’t ask her to resign but that she began making overtures that she was leaning in that direction “a few weeks ago.”
“We’ve been talking about it the last couple of weeks and she gave me her decision Thursday night,” said Abbott.
He also said she didn’t give him a reason for her decision.
Abbott said he thinks very highly of Smith and credited her with transforming a program that had “some real problems” into one with a strong foundation.
Smith compiled a 73-81 record in her three seasons at Maine, highlighted by a second-place finish in America East two seasons ago. Maine hosted the America East Tournament that year.
Maine went 18-31 this past spring and missed the America East playoffs. They went 7-10 in league play, losing eight of their last nine conference games.
Maine went 11-39 under Stacey Sullivan in 2008. When Sullivan didn’t have her contract renewed after going 70-84 in her three seasons, Smith was hired for her second stint as the head coach at Maine.
Smith had compiled a 119-141 record during a five-year stretch from 2000-2004 before resigning for personal reasons. She had served as an assistant at Maine for five seasons.
The former America East Coach of the Year eventually returned to coaching and posted a record of 44-99 in three seasons at the University of Rhode Island before replacing Sullivan.
Smith was the North Atlantic Conference Co-Pitcher and Co-Player of the Year her senior year in 1994 when she led Maine to its first NCAA Tournament berth. She also guided them to a berth as a coach.
In a press release, Smith thanked the university for giving her the opportunity to return to the softball program and re-establish its strong foundation.
“Over the past three years I have had the chance to work with some wonderful student-athletes and coaches who had the faith and trust in me to work toward that end,” she said in the release. “We have tried to build a program the right way, stressing hard work, academics and character while striving to compete for conference championships. I believe the groundwork has been laid and that these goals are attainable under the leadership of a new coach.”
Smith could not be reached for further comment.
Abbott says he plans to launch a national search for a new coach.
“Our softball program has a lot of potential,” said Abbott. “We’ve got a great foundation, excellent facilities and a strong corps of returning players. We’re looking for a strong game and practice coach and somebody who is a good recruiter.”
Smith, who made $46,588 per year, is the second head coach to leave in the last seven months.
Abbott fired Black Bear women’s basketball coach Cindy Blodgett in March and replaced her with Richard Barron.
Abbott said the two situations are different because the women’s basketball program was in need of an overhaul while the softball program has a good foundation.
A 1994 UMaine graduate, Smith earned All-American honors in ’94 and was inducted into the University of Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.