Moving Forward

With at least three recent public announcements from fan groups concerning Ole Miss athletics, one of them with its own website and another with an e-mail proclaiming its concerns within Rebel sports, Pete Boone presses forward. But not without addressing the current situation.

"I think it's frustration of this past year. I don't think it's any question about it," said Boone, who has served Ole Miss as athletics director for two tenures – 1995-98 and 2002 to the present. "And I think a lot of it has to do with losing to a rival team. Those things don't heal very easily."

At least one of the documents had some fairly direct comments toward Boone personally.

"I don't want to get into a situation where I'm saying something about myself," Boone said. "I don't take it personally. There are some individuals that I think don't particularly like me or don't particularly like the job I've done. But that comes with time. I've been doing this for 13 or 14 years. If you're in a position where you have to make tough decisions, hiring coaches, firing coaches, budgets, saying yes, saying no, an athletic director is bound to have a buildup of folks that just don't like him or her. That's with the territory."

He understands that, and he said he also understands the feelings of the fans.

"The issues with regards to those letters and things like that, I understand their frustration," said the former Ole Miss football player. "The method is probably not one I would choose to do."

Boone said despite some apparent discontent in the fanbase, there are signs people are still supportive in large numbers.

Pete Boone
Associated Press
"We have record donations, more people are members of the (UMAA) Foundation than ever before. The facts say that Ole Miss is ready to move forward. The facts say the fans are supporting Ole Miss programs."

Boone is pleased so many are interested in a movement forward and plans to be a part of at least one of them himself.

"I'm going to join Forward Rebels. I think it's great," he said of a group whose website was expanded Wednesday night to reveal its mission. "It's about unifying the base. It's about unifying everybody. That's what I've been trying to preach the last several weeks to our donors.

"There are too few of us against too many. And we've got to be together. I feel very good about the response we've gotten from those folks looking for ways to get together and to succeed."

Boone arrived at Ole Miss as a result of an NCAA investigation and ultimate probation for the football program that was revealed in the summer of 1994. The sanctions, which were extensive, were handed down during the football season later that year.

"I'm so focused on compliance. That (NCAA investigation, probation) is not going to happen at Ole Miss," he said, adamantly. "I believe Ole Miss, other than Vanderbilt, may be the only (Southeastern Conference) school since 1994, which brought me into this (sports) world, without a major investigation from the NCAA. We're going to have institutional control. To me the integrity of Ole Miss is at stake. So I'm going to do everything that I can do (to prevent that)."

At the end of the day, he says it's all about his alma mater.

"I'm all about Ole Miss. I'm trying to make decisions that are in the best interests of Ole Miss. Not Pete Boone. Not a coach. Not a fan. Not a booster."

Boone talked about other topics of interest:

On the upcoming capital campaign to be announced officially:

"We put several things in the capital campaign, including the north end zone. In the next six weeks we'll have our plans ready for (the new arena), the plans being the whole package and not just a dream. We're trying to have a real intimate environment. We're still looking at having around 10,000 actual seats. We'll have a virtual tour and you can go in and take a look around the venue. We'll have the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame in it. (On the north end zone), the concept is for it to be identical to the south. It may mean we have to do something with the FedEx building or part of it (old field house). The concept is also that the Walk of Champions comes down and comes through that area. We want to make that a gorgeous walkway from the Grove to the stadium. The parking lot (north of the scoreboard) will become a plaza area."

On the mascot situation:

"It's a big deal to those that are emotional about it. And I'm not saying they're wrong. My focus is what can we do to help win championships. That's not that it (mascot) is insignificant. It's very important to a lot of people. But there are times when we are spending too much time on some things that are not going to help us win. And that's the only frustrating part to me about some of these things. But that comes with the territory. When people give me their opinion about it, I don't argue with them. I have my own opinion about a lot of things.

"I think we ought to weigh things as they affect our team and affect our ability to succeed. In the long run it's about Ole Miss, and, I think that's what people are focused on."

Pete Boone
Associated Press
On if the mascot situation has hurt ticket sales or donations to the UMAA Foundation:

"We're ahead of our season ticket sales at this time last year. Our Foundation is going to have a record donation this year for the second or third year in a row. That's cash. Not pledges. We only count cash. We launched the Vaught Society at our last Cotton Bowl and had a goal over four years to get to 12 and a half million.

"We're about to get there in a year and a half of philanthropic donations. So I really don't think that's affected it. The facts don't say it. We have more members in the Foundation than ever before, and it's because they want to win."

On the cowbell rule:

"I voted to not extend it and I had not done that before. I had abstained. I'm not sure how (the coaches individually) voted, but six of them aren't there (Starkville) but once every six years. To them it's not a big deal. You can be rivals. There will be passion. We want to beat them every time we stand across from them, as they do us. There is also the sense of civility, the sense of the same sort of problems and how can we work together to solve those problems."

On the attempt by some to try to limit football oversigning:

"The intent is wholesome and for everything to be transparent and on the top of the table. Then the intent is for us to get the NLI (National Letter of Intent) amended, but I don't know if that will happen because the NLI is run by the commissioners of all the conferences. It's all about the 85 number. You sign 25 a year and you're talking 125 over five years. It is a balancing act. The only disappointing thing about it was that the proposal was not backed by facts. We're going to ask all our SEC colleagues to give us the last four years of the number that you signed, the number of seniors, and the attrition that you have. Where does that stand? It may end up it is not a big deal. Or it may end up that it is. We didn't have that information, and in a sense we were making a blind decision. The SEC is going to try to take it national and make it an NCAA legislation. We'll have to have some facts to back it up, and that will help."

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