It has been said Ole Miss is more country club than college, more of a social finishing school, than a top flight research facility; all in a drinking town with a football problem.
Being an alumnus, I can argue against this to some extent. But for the same reason, I can also point out some shortcomings, maybe more so than those from outside the grove.
First, let me say Ole Miss does a lot of things well and I don’t think that anyone in a position of leadership wants to see anything but the absolute best for the University. There are just inherent constraints any institution or business has to work within.
Ole Miss certainly has a smaller alumni base and thus smaller budgets, than many of their SEC brethren. These are real issues that are not going to change anytime soon and should always be the counterweight to any criticism. But there are some issues that violate plain common sense, especially in 2012.
The GOB, The Good Old Boy Network, has always been strong in the south. It can be a glorious thing, if the network is made up of the best and brightest people in the room. Too often, as we all know, the GOB is typically populated by the money men, the politically powerful, nepotistic hangers-on, and those with un-cashed favors.
The group at Ole Miss, are characteristically, died-in-the-wool, fans of Ole Miss. No one will question this fact. They will tell you, they Love Ole Miss just like their Mama!, and I have no doubt that is true. They will tell you, No one better understands Ole Miss’ positives and negatives than someone from the inside; this I will freely admit.
But let me ask, what do YOU want in leadership? Do you want the most passionate person? Do you want to reward the person with most seniority? Or do you want what is best for the University of Mississippi?
I’m not going to rehash every detail about the last 30-40 years of the hiring and firing of Coaches and Athletic Directors (I will save you and I that much work, we all know the mediocre results). The most recent hiring of Head Football Coach and the upcoming hiring of a new Athletic Director will tell you all you need to know about the direction Ole Miss is heading.
In the “national search” to replace Houston Nutt, (who was hired without a “national search”, by the way, #suprise), a former Ole Miss recruiting coordinator was hired in Hugh Freeze. A coach that was previously fired with the Ed Orgeron staff and most recently was Head Coach at Arkansas State. He is a successful coach by the record; but after one good year at the helm of ASU, is Freeze really the best for Ole Miss?
Athletic Director Pete Boone, said to be the epitome of the GOB by some, is currently being re-placed after considerable pressure from the fan base to shorten his contract. Another “national search” is underway, and Ole Miss does have a chance to make a great hire here.
There are probably hundreds, maybe thousands, of men or women out there with athletic administration experience and good leadership qualities that can fulfill the slogan at Ole Miss, “A Great American Public University.” But if a former Pete Boone staffer or a Governor’s kid is hired at Ole Miss as Athletic Director, I will say good luck to them and give them a chance to change my mind. But I know Ole Miss can do better.
I would stand just like a father watching his daughter marry a guy with a dog collar; Proud and resolute, until the inevitable end 6 months later. And I will be there, with open arms, when she comes running home looking for answers that I’ve already offered. I will never give up on Ole Miss, just like I would never give up a child, or a parent. But reality is reality and Ole Miss is Ole Miss.
There are some that will say, if you complain about those that are well connected, you obviously aren’t one of them; and that is certainly the case with me. I’m not politically active in the State and I probably won’t ever be a platinum donor to the Legacy Foundation.
But I do want what they "say" they want, and that is the absolute Best for the University of Mississippi. (So get it together! Jeez!)