Anticipating 2014

The calendar will turn to 2014 before long. The anticipation for Ole Miss athletics is potentially at an all-time high.

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Some of it is because of football. Some of it is additional aspects, like new facilities being planned and built and a continued upward direction for the athletics department.

"Everybody is obviously very excited with all the momentum we have with football season," said Keith Carter, Associate Athletics Director for Development and the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation Executive Director. "People see the progress and know we are on the right track. Everybody I deal with on a day to day basis is super excited. They sense that Ole Miss is in a place it hasn't been in a long time."

That "place" is with a chance to succeed at the highest level of sports. Many things are in place already, and others are being put in place for that to happen.

"I think the most exciting thing is we all feel we're just getting started," said Carter, with the athletics department since 2009. "We're really just scratching the surface of what we can do. It makes it fun to come to work every day."

There was no more fun day to go to work than Monday, Oct. 21. That was two days after Ole Miss beat LSU in football.

"When you get a win like that on your home field, it boosts momentum," Carter said. "It boosts the energy and everything that's going on. That game shows, with all that was going against us, mainly the injuries, our fans can see what Coach (Hugh) Freeze is building. Even in a game we might not win, fans know they're going to see a team that plays hard and with the best effort from the players and the coaching staff."

Even with wins like the one over the Tigers, it doesn't necessarily mean money will simply roll in that week. But it does help in every way, according to Carter, a former Ole Miss basketball player.

"You get some of your Monday and Tuesday morning calls, folks that want to help. But what we pride ourselves on here and within the athletics department is having already done the groundwork so that when you do have a win like that, maybe it does tip the scale to one side," he said.

"You can make that call or send that text after the game and say ‘Great win. Let's finish that conversation Monday.' Something like that. It's really not a deal where it's just out of the blue that on Monday morning somebody calls in and wants to give you $100,000. That doesn't happen a lot. We'd love for that to happen. But our job every day is to continue those conversations."

Keith Carter
Bruce Newman

Wins and losses affect everyone. But Carter says the Foundation simply cannot let those up and down emotions move them from their steady course.

"We say all the time ours is a business that you can't get too high and you can't get too low," he said. "You just stay the course. When you do have those opportunities in the high moments, then you do capitalize. But it's really because you've already laid the groundwork. You've already had those meetings. You've already put the steps in place for that to happen. Then you wait for those opportunities to try to close the deal."

So what's 2014 going to be about? There are several areas fans and supporters will be able to visibly see progress beginning.

"We're starting our parking garage construction right after football season. In the spring we'll start early excavation of the new arena, and construction will probably start in May or June," Carter said. "We feel good about those. We've done a lot of ground work, and the processes are in place.

"As far as the north end zone, we're in the early stages of preparation and design and discussions. In a perfect world, we would love to have those finished by the 2015 season. It's going to take a lot of things for that to happen. We'll have to secure the pledges and the financing. The actual process of design development, what we want it to look like, and what the architects can do in that amount of time will be a big key there, too."

In that perfect world Carter speaks of, all of this might be completed within a couple of years, maybe three. That might not happen. But things are on track for this to move at a pretty good clip to get it done in as short amount of time as possible.

"Our feeling is we would love to get all this done at the same time," he said of the arena and north end zone projects. "We would love to have this thing done and a bow wrapped around it as soon as we can. It's one of those things that if all the stars aligned, we could get everything done in that same time frame."

Being able to get them done will in large part be a direct result of how supportive fans and alumni are and continue to be with their gifts. Carter said the mindset and enthusiasm are there, and Ole Miss people are continuing to step up for their school.

"We're excited. People are excited," he said. "We're moving forward on these things."

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