Kansas sang about nothing lasting forever but the earth and sky. Willie Nelson, and Dandy Don Meredith, told us when the party’s over to turn out the lights; all good things must end.
After 18 years at the Ole Miss Spirit, I’m heading in another direction. It wasn’t an easy decision but one whose time had come.
So as the guys get ready for SEC Media Days, I’ll be getting ready for a new assignment – managing editor of the Oxford Citizen, a currently twice-weekly newspaper also with a website presence that was begun by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in April, 2014.
I’m looking forward to that as we’re all a part of an exploding Oxford. Lafayette County is Mississippi’s fastest growing, percentage-wise, this decade.
The best part is that I stay in Oxford and continue to write, and there is something to be said for being able to live in this town and write anything.
It’s tough to leave in many ways. Make no mistake about it, for more than 30 years the Ole Miss Spirit has been the most important voice of Ole Miss sports. And Chuck Rounsaville one of Rebel athletics’ most important people. I don’t say that lightly or without knowledge of it. You sit in the same office space with him for as long as I have and you know. And I learned that rather quickly.
I jumped on board back in January, 1997, after Chuck and I had talked about it for more than a year. It was fun right out of the gate. The first Saturday I was here Ole Miss beat Kentucky in men’s basketball and got its first-ever ranking. That’s right, first one ever, as the Rebels were at No. 20 in the AP poll and wound up in the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in program history.
That February was crazy as far as football recruiting. It was a lot like now with the excitement that was building in the program. In a brief span, Chuck and I ran over to Clarksdale for Terrance Metcalf’s announcement, I drove to Shannon for Romaro Miller’s press conference, and we all got excited when Dulymus McAllister of Morton said “yes” to the Rebels. “Deuce” would become a legend at Ole Miss and in New Orleans.
It wouldn’t be long afterward that Chuck told Yancy Porter, already a frequent visitor to the office, to drop by. He wanted to talk to him. So Chuck added the hardest working recruiting guru in the business. Yancy loved his job in the late 1990s and still loves it with that same passion today.
All this came along about the time Chuck added a website to the Spirit. Andy Strickland, The Ventmaster, was the perfect person to join our growing flock, and he became a great friend as well.
We rocked along for a few years and grew the business, got to cover some more postseason hoops, Ole Miss added Mike Bianco who has taken baseball to new heights, and we became consumed like the rest of you with the Eli Manning years.
With Bruce Newman taking great pictures, we were set. And then the world began to change before us. By 2004 it was apparent an independent publication like ours needed a wider voice and a network to be a part of. And Scout.com, then known as The Insiders, was the next step.
There are a number of outstanding young writers I’ve had the privilege of working with as we watched them grow through writing for us. Most were in school at Ole Miss. Some stayed in the profession and are active today. Others found different paths. All have remained my friends.
In 2007 Chase Parham, still a good friend, joined us in a newly-established position on staff. After Chase left in 2008, Ben Garrett came on board.
Ben fit in well, given his Ole Miss background, and his work ethic is unmatched. Ben had been working after college at the Sun Belt Conference office in New Orleans. He was living in the French Quarter. For a 20-something, some might ask why leave that. But he was a Mississippi guy ready to come back home.
It would be difficult to pick out even a few moments that stand out above the rest. Most would be wins or positives. Some would be losses and heartbreakers.
Certainly because of my passion for the sport and being around it all the time, getting to the College World Series in 2014 was an unforgettable several days. The Lafayette, La., Super Regional the week before stands alongside it. Any Regional and Super Regional in Oxford does since those have become special weekends for Rebel Nation.
Another for me was the Motor City Bowl in 1997. A great trip because we got to drive up to Louisville and see Rebel basketball beat the Cardinals in Freedom Hall and then drive on up to Detroit for a week, spending Christmas at a hotel in Troy and eating at the only place open on Christmas Day – Don Shula’s Steak House. Lucky us. And what an exciting win over Marshall.
Valpo in Oklahoma City was a heartbreaker to cover. Villanova in Milwaukee was just the opposite as we finally got to see an Ole Miss men’s basketball team win a NCAA Tournament game. Such a thrill for all concerned.
The Eli years were everything they were supposed to be – except that elusive trip to Atlanta in December, and maybe a Sugar Bowl for the kid from Newman High to be able to play back home.
The current era of Ole Miss sports is the greatest yet. Across the board Rebel programs improve and are being given the tools to compete at the highest level.
So is the Ole Miss Spirit. Chuck and company are moving ahead, giving you the most up-to-date format and information in the business. It will only continue to get better.
As for me, I’ll still be around. They’ve said, “Jump in and post some.” So I will from time to time. Not as JeffSpiritEditor but most likely as just plain ole Jeff Roberson. (I did give a bit of thought about an anonymous username but that feeling went away).
Thank you for reading me all these years, for allowing me to be a part of your daily lives and a part of what we all love dearly – Ole Miss.
Thanks again, Chuck, for giving the opportunity of a lifetime to a guy who always wanted to write about the Rebels.
And subscribers, be sure to always remain a part of the Ole Miss Spirit, the most important voice for Ole Miss sports since 1982.
God bless you all. I’ll see you at the games.
A New Chapter
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