Ole Miss Athletics 2015: Flagship Update

– Hello, Rebel Nation
and greetings from the FedEx Student-Athlete
Support Center at Ole Miss. While many of you have
not visited this building, it is easily the most
important place on campus for our student-athletes and
is the tangible connection between academics and athletics. I want to thank FedEx for
their continued support of this critical resource
for Ole Miss Athletics. It is truly an honor to serve
as the Director of Athletics at our state’s flagship
institution of higher learning. As I enter my fourth year, my
heart is full with the pride we all share in this very special place. Every year as your Athletics
Director, we have provided a video greeting as we
start a new academic year so I would like to spend
just a few minutes exploring the incredible year we’ve just finished and also take a quick
peek at the year to come. Ole Miss enjoyed unprecedented
fan support in 2014-15. Football season attendance
records were shattered for the second straight season and the streak of selling out
season tickets has already been extended for a third
consecutive year in 2015. Baseball finished second
in the nation in attendance extending a streak of 10
straight seasons in the top five. The athletics budget has risen
from $57 million in 2011-12 to $96 million for this coming year. In cash donations received for 2014-15 reached a record high of $35 million. As of August, the Forward
Together capital campaign has risen from $62 million to $140 million in cash and pledges toward
the goal of $150 million. Campaign plans include
The Pavilion at Ole Miss to open in January of 2016, a north end zone expansion and suite renovations at
Vaught Hemingway Stadium, renovation of the Gillom Center, FedEx Student-Athlete Support Center and the Starnes Athletic Training Center as well as other future
projects to be determined. We will continue to raise
money beyond $150 million so please stay tuned as our campaign and facilities plans move ahead. Rebel Nation support was
met by landmark success in the competitive arena in 2014-15. Ole Miss was one of only
two schools in the nation to make a New Year’s Six
bowl and the NCAA tournament in men’s basketball and baseball. The football team’s bowl berth marked our third straight in Hugh Freeze’s tenure and capped a season that saw
the Rebels rise to number three in the polls and lead the
nation in scoring defense. Ole Miss men’s basketball
advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second time in
the past three years and tied for third in the SEC standings. Women’s basketball also
reached the post-season and had our best record since 2006-07. There were also impressive
turnarounds in volleyball, which posted its most wins since 2007. Softball won 30 games
for only the second time in our school history and men’s golf reached the NCAA championship
for the first time since 2011. Other NCAA tournament teams
included baseball which made it for the 13th time
in the last 15 season, in men’s and women’s tennis which finished 14th and 23rd in the nation respectively, track and field set a
school record 14 qualifiers and 17 athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
while capturing four SEC titles between the indoor
and outdoor seasons. Across all sports, Ole Miss
produced 12 post season team participants, 21
All-Americans, 27 All-Conference selections, and five
professional draft picks. Off the field, we have
continued our efforts to build the Ole Miss brand in a fun and creative and cutting edge way, you were introduced to a new friend, Randy Kennedy, this past summer is a way to highlight a new attitude around
our basketball programs but also show a commitment to marketing all Ole Miss sports on a 365-day basis. And when it comes to telling the stories of Ole Miss Athletics, our
production team continues to lead the country in creativity, talent and work ethic represented by another year of winning Emmy awards, two of them! Most importantly, in
the classroom, Ole Miss student-athletes continue to strive toward the established goal of an overall 3.0 GPA as the 2014-15 class logged
a record mark of 2.90. More than 30 Rebels earned
national academic recognition while 165 received academic
All-Conference accolades. In the community,
student-athletes participated in more than 30 service projects and even bigger plans are on the horizon. No university puts a greater emphasis on diversity than Ole
Miss and our leadership was honored for those efforts in 2015. In July, then-Chancellor Dan Jones and I received the inaugural
Champions of Diversity and Inclusion recognition from the NCAA Minority Opportunities
and Interests Committee to spotlight individuals
who are working to support the interests of ethnic minorities and other under-represented populations. We do not focus on these efforts to win awards but to do things
right and do the right thing. That strong positive leadership extends to the student-athlete level
for baseball stand-out, Brady Bramlett, as elected as the National Student-Athlete
Advisory Committee Vice-Chairman and member of the NCAA Minorities and Opportunities Interests Committee. As the year drew to a
close, the Rebel family grew with some impressive new faces. The women’s golf team welcomed Kory Henkes to the head coaching post after she built Georgia Regents University into
a perennial top 25 program. Ole Miss Track and Field also
has a new leader in US Olympic head coach, Connie Price-Smith, who’s a 4-time Olympian
and was the head coach of Southern Illinois
for the last 14 years. As we move forward together
into the promise of a new year, let us commit again to this university, our student-athletes and to one another. Our strength has been and always will be in the family that is Ole Miss. We share a bond that will
take us through all seasons, through triumph and challenge and make us stronger as a result. I look forward to seeing you at Oxford or your community this fall. Hotty Toddy and Go Rebels!

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