The fiscal, or should we actually say "physical," athletic year of 2005-2006 has come to an end, for all practical purposes. From our admittedly optimistic viewpoint, some good things were accomplished despite some losing records. Read about it inside.

With the dust settled on the 2005-2006 athletic year at Ole Miss, on the surface it appears to be a year with not a lot to cheer about, especially since football and men's basketball - two of the bell cows of the athletic department - registered losing records.

But we are going to take a brief look past the surface, to the inner workings, where there are signs of a Rebel uprising.

Before getting into that, however, a big wad of kudos to the baseball program for its accomplishments and to men's tennis for constantly staying in the national spotlight in their sport.

There were also some special moments produced by the rifle team and women's soccer and some individual good times in track. And softball, women's basketball and women's tennis showed solid improvement toward getting to where they want to be. With Ernest Ross at the helm of the golf programs, that will turn around too, in time, but it will take time because he's fighting a facilities battle for the top talent right now.

In football, first-year Coach Ed Orgeron experienced some talent and staff problems that were not conducive to a winning season.

The chemistry on the staff just did not develop. Some were geeing when they should have been hawing and vice versa. It happens - I've seen it before and it can be devastating to productivity.

Coach O played the hand out like he had to, but it was inevitable changes had to be made to solidify his staff where they were all pulling in the same direction.

That has been done with the additions of OC Dan Werner, OL Coach Art Kehoe, TE Coach Hugh Freeze and LB Coach David Saunders. They are now a visibly cohesive staff working on the same page and making daily progress. That was a must and something Coach O, to his credit, was quick to act on. He proved to me at that point that he was a take charge person who will not hesitate to try to fix what's broken. If you snooze, you lose, the old saying goes. Coach O doesn't sleep, that I know of.

The talent - the ageold argument among fans. "We didn't have enough to win." "Yes we did." "No we didnt." "Yes we did. . . . " To this day, more than six months after the fact, the debate continues. For what it's worth, my take is somewhere in the middle. If all conditions had been perfect - a staff on the same page and no key injuries - we probably had enough to win a couple of more games, but without an efficient QB on offense, some staff problems and Patrick Willis (among others) being injured a few games, it was improbable to expect a whole lot more, in my humble opinion.

My personal projection for 2006 is rosier. With a cohesive staff and the influx and maturation of some very key players (Brent Schaeffer, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Peria Jerry becoming a headhunter, et al) and the team of Werner/Kehoe operating the front and the offense, we will be much better than we were, but I still don't believe we have championship-caliber talent from top to bottom. We have several players as good as anyone's, but not enough. The bright side of this is that Coach O and his staff will get the talent in here - in time - where that won't be a constant concern/headache. He's already logged a Top 15 recruiting class in his first full effort and more are on the way. Patience, my friends.

In hoops, as much as I like Rod Barnes personally, there really was no choice but to make a change. Fan apathy, due to lack of production from the team, had set in and when that happens a program is doomed.

While the season was painful, the end result of getting Andy Kennedy at the helm has given the men's basketball program a needed shot in the arm. Fans will come back in the fold and Andy will take the same approach to recruiting that Coach O has in football - tireless, constant and relentless. Kennedy, as well-connected in the hotbeds of hoops talent as anyone I have been around - has already produced some last-minute results in recruiting that could turn out to begin the healing immediately. We'll see, but the main thing is that the fan base has renewed vigor toward the program and we are all on the same page that the right hire was made.

The baseball season was exceptional - again, but there was a matter hanging over our heads of whether or not Coach Mike Bianco would be here if LSU came calling. Mike and the administration answered that emphatically and quickly - he will be. That was a statement that was tantamount to our future success and attitude.

This is not a wait-til-next-year piece. That phrase has come to imply next year probably won't be any better. I don't believe that is the case here.

While the results in two main sports were not good, the underpinnings of the two programs lead to more than just hope. There is concrete evidence that both are moving in the proper direction, a direction that will show noticeable positive results.

I'm looking forward to the 2006-2007 fiscal athletic year at Ole Miss. I'll go on record right now - barring anything catastrophic not anticipated - as saying it will be much, much better than the year just completed.

Hold on to your hats - the journey is about to. . . hell, it has already begun.

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