Hart spent the past six years as athletic director at Tennessee- Chattanooga.
"We are very happy to welcome Rick and his family to SMU," university President R. Gerald Turner said. "In his time at Chattanooga, Rick has demonstrated a commitment to athletic and academic success, fiscal responsibility, and a focus on the student-athlete experience.
"I am confident that he has the skills and abilities to keep SMU athletics moving forward as we transition to the Big East and become an even more prominent member of the college athletics landscape."
Hart's experience also includes stints at North Carolina and East Carolina, and he has served with the U.S. Olympic Committee.