March 11, 2024

Dayna Smith Removed as Head Coach of Women’s Basketball After 21 Years in Position

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This story will be updated.

Dayna Smith was dismissed as the head coach of women’s basketball, ending her run as the longest-tenured women’s basketball coach in the Ivy League.

The “effective immediately” change in leadership was announced in a Cornell Athletics press release on Monday, March 11. 

Smith “has not been retained” and was consequently “removed as head coach,” according to Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Communications, Jeremy Hartigan, in an email to The Sun. 

It was unclear in the press release what specifically prompted Smith’s departure.

A national search will commence to replace Smith’s long-occupied position as head coach. Val Klopfer, associate head coach, will act as the interim head coach until the position is filled. 

Smith, hired in 2002, has been at the helm of Cornell women’s basketball for 21 years. Her 224 all-time wins lead the program, while her tenure was trademarked by a successful run to the NCAA tournament in 2008. Cornell has not achieved a winning conference record since then.

This year, the Red (7-19, 1-13 Ivy) tied for last place in the Ivy League standings. Its 1-13 Ivy League record was its worst performance in conference play since the 2004-05 season. 

Cornell has only qualified for Ivy Madness –– the annual Ivy League basketball tournament consisting of the conference’s top-four teams –– once in 2019 since its implementation in 2017. 

Dr. Nicki Moore, the Director of Athletics and Physical Education, thanked Smith for her commitment to the program in Monday’s press release.

“Dayna Smith has led the Big Red women’s basketball program for more than two decades with integrity and drive, dedicating herself to developing successful student-athletes on and off the court,” Moore wrote.

Smith also affirmed her appreciation for the opportunity to lead the women’s basketball program for over two decades in the press release.

“As I look back on more than 20 years of people and moments, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have served as head basketball coach at Cornell,” Smith wrote. “I’m especially proud of all that my student-athletes have accomplished at Cornell and all that they’ll continue to do in the future.”

Moore closed the press release with her vision for new leadership.

“As we embark on a new leg of this journey, we do so with unwavering confidence in our ability to discover an exceptional leader who will embrace the ideals of the Ivy League and Cornell University, and who will cultivate, prepare and propel extraordinary student-athletes toward academic and basketball achievement as well as lifelong success and wellbeing,” Moore wrote.

Correction, March 11, 7:45 p.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that women’s basketball has never qualified for Ivy Madness. The team qualified in 2019. The Sun regrets this error, and the article has been corrected.