Moving Forward

Keith Carter headed into 2013 with the same enthusiasm he had entering 2012. But this year things were much different.


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First of all, he's now Associate Athletics Director for Development/Executive Director UMAA Foundation. He moved into that role when former director Danny White left to become athletics director of the University at Buffalo.

Carter's move up was made by new athletics director Ross Bjork, who arrived in Oxford within the past year.

Carter continues everyday operations of the UMAA Foundation, helping oversee an athletics budget that's $63 million and climbing. But much of the attention remains on the Forward Together campaign announced back in the summer of 2011 when White was still the director and Pete Boone was the athletics director.

Projects have begun, and more major work is on the horizon to continue to improve Ole Miss athletics facilities.

"The first thing and the most immediate thing is the construction crew at the IPF area," he said. "We're putting 12 and a half million (dollars) into that facility – new team meeting room, new cafeteria, enhancements to existing locker room and team locker room. We're moving Coach (Hugh) Freeze's office from upstairs to downstairs closer to his assistants. It's going to be a good piece of the puzzle for him and a wow factor for recruits. And obviously a positive for our student-athletes that are here."

The new arena that's been planned within the campaign gets closer to becoming a reality with each passing month.

"We're excited about that project," Carter said. "We're finalizing some site prep, site planning. We'll get into pretty shortly some of the actual design of the building and what it will look like on the inside and the outside. We plan to break ground toward the end of this year and open the fall of 2015. I feel very confident at the end of this football season, Dec. 1, Jan. 1, you'll start to see site preps and things that people are going to get excited about."

The athletics department continues to talk about creating a front door to Ole Miss athletics. Part of that has to do with where the new arena might be located. Still not a certainty, it does appear the arena will likely go between the football stadium and the Turner Center.

"There are a few things we're looking into with the site itself. We're pretty sure we can fit it there and make it work. But the architects are still bringing some things to us that haven't fully allowed us to say that's definitely where it will be. We think it's going to be there, but we haven't finalized it yet."

If the arena goes there, some 270 parking spots will be lost. That's not only for football games but also for the general student population on a daily basis. A parking garage is being looked into for that area and is a possibility to help with the parking situation.

"We feel like the best way to go back and fill in those spots is to build a garage," Carter said. "We think we can create about 600 stalls there, and that will create a net of about 330 spaces. Obviously that's a big revenue for the university. It costs a lot to build it, but there's obviously some revenue that can be made from it as well."

The north football practice field would likely be lost as a part of the project. That would leave two practice fields, the indoor football practice field, and the actual stadium playing field.

"Obviously Ross (Bjork) has spoken to football about that, and they're comfortable with that," Carter said.

Carter said the next few months are important to keep things moving forward, especially from the big picture aspect.


Keith Carter
Bruce Newman

"Our focus in the next two to three months is really looking for some high-level gifts. I'm going to be on the road with Ross, talking to folks about helping us get to that next level.

"We've talked about how everybody is needed, and we want as many members to the UMAA as possible. But for us to get from where we are right now and the number we have to reach, obviously there have to be some larger gifts in there. We would love to secure some seven to eight figure gifts. "

Carter reiterates that large gifts hold some of the keys to whatever happens in the near term.

"We feel good about where we are with the IPF projects financially, with the arena financially. But for us to move forward with north end zone and some of the other components, there are some dollars that have to be raised. We're going to work extremely hard on that. People can look for their phones to be ringing and their emails to be full, because we're coming to see them."

Naming rights for facilities is also a possibility, and there is a desire from Ole Miss athletics officials that this happen.

"That will be a big part of these high-level gifts. There's always naming rights that can be associated with these gifts. We've had some people step up. We've had some near misses on a couple of gifts that are still in the works."

Carter said there is momentum because of the success of the sports programs now, but the challenges for him and his staff remain.

"I hear all the time ‘I'll bet your job's easy now.' It's never easy. People work hard for their money, and they don't want it to go to something they don't believe in. (Winning) makes them take the meeting, it makes them take the phone call. The excitement is at a level I haven't seen here in a long time. We just want to make sure to build those relationships. It's still about that. All of that has to happen.

"But there's no doubt the momentum Coach Freeze and his staff have built, with Ross coming in with his energy, and what Coach (Andy) Kennedy and basketball are doing, what we believe baseball will do, all of that ties in to make a really good environment to go work hard and earn money, and that's all we can ask for."

Carter said the window of opportunity is "now" for Ole Miss.

"We've got an opportunity to capture this momentum like we've never done before. We've got to make sure we don't miss that. In college athletics, it can go down as fast as it goes up. That's what Ross cautions us every single meeting, not to get too high or too low. Let's just do our jobs and keep working hard. But I believe right now is the time to work toward building on this momentum."

Carter said the campaign remains fluid in that needs can change over time. He explains.

"We launched the campaign in Aug., 2011, and we felt those initiatives were what suited us best at that time. Since that time there's been a change in leadership. We know the arena is one of the priorities.

"The IPF project jumped ahead of it, simply because some of those plans were already in design. They've been worked on for two years. We wanted to get that construction going. The next part is the north end zone and how that looks. We're working with architects on that as well. The issue there is that it will be based on funding, and it will be based on demand. That's very consistent with what we've said from day one. Can we sell the seats, and can we pay for it? Those go hand in hand. We would love to be able to do the north end zone at the same time (as the arena)."

Season ticket sales for football are expected to rise, perhaps significantly, this season. Carter is excited about that prospect.

"Could we sell it out? Maybe. I think there's a chance. We probably won't project that, but we see that there should be a pretty substantial increase. We're going to do everything we can to make that happen."


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